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BIOLOGY 

LIBRARY 

G 






''* 




BY 

W. H. HUDSON, C.M.Z.S. 



WITH A CHAPTER ON STEUCTUEE AND CLASSIFICATION 
BY FEANK E. BEDDABD, F.B.S, 



With 8 Coloured Platet from Original Drawings by A. Thorburn 

and 8 Platet and 100 figures in black and white from Original Drawings by 0. E. l.odg 
and 3 Illustrations from Photographs from Nature by R. B. Ledge 



NEW IMPRESSION 



LONGMANS, GEEEN, AND CO. 

39 PATEENOSTEE BOW, LONDON 

FOURTH AVENUE & 30TH STREET, NEW YORK 
BOMBAY. CALCUTTA, AND MADRAS 

1921 
All rightt reserved 



:*: .. 
..:/*. -.. : 



LrMo 




BIOLOGY 

LIBRARY 

6 



CONTENTS, 



PAX*?. 

THE ANATOMY OF A BIRD ... .1 

CLASSIFICATION .... ... 34 

Order PASSEBE3. 

MISSEL-THRUSH. Turdus viscivo-fu* . . . . 89 

SONG-THRUSH. Turdus musicus . . .41 

KEDWING. Turdus iliacus . . . . . . . 45 

FIELDFARE. Turdus pilaris . * . .46 

Black-throated Thrush. Turdus atrigularis . . 52 

White's Thrush. Turdus varius . . ... 52 

BLACKBIRD. Turdus merula . . . . 47 

RING-OUZEL. Turdus torquatus . . . . . .50 

Eock- Thrush. Monticola saxatilis . , 52 

WHEATEAB. Saxicola cenanthe ... C2 

Black-throated Wheatear. Saxicola sir apaeina > , 54 

Desert Wheatoar. Saxicola deserti . . . . .54 

WHINCHAT. Pratincola rubetra . . 54 

STONECHAT. Pratincola rubicola .... .56 

REDSTART. Buticilla phaenicurus . . . 57 

Black Redstart. Buticilla titys .... .59 

White-spotted Bluethroat. Cyanecula wolfi . . . 59 

Red-spotted Bluethroat. Cyanecula suecica . .59 

REDBREAST. Erilhacus rubecula . . . . = . 59 

NIGHTINGALE. Daullas luscima . . . . , .62 

WHITETHROAT. Sylvia cinerea . . . 64 

LESSER WHITETHROAT. Sylvia curruca . r , . .66 

Orphean Warbler. Sylvia orphea . . . . 70 

BLACKCAP. Sylvia atricapilla .... . . 67 

GARDEN WARBLER. Sylvia hortensis ... , , 69 

Barred Warbler. Sylvia nisoria .... 70 

DARTFORD WARBLER. Melieophilus undatua , , 70 

GOLDOREST. Regulua cristatus . . , < .7? 

Firecrest. Begulus ignicapillu . . : ^ . T4 



vi BEITISH BIBDS 

PAOH 

Yellow-browed Warbler. Phylloscopus superciliosus . . .79 

CHIFFCHAFP. Phylloscopus rufus . . . . . 74 

WILLOW- WREN. Phylloscopus trochilus . . . . .76 

WOOD- WHEN. Phylloscopus sibilatrix . , . 78 

Icterine Warbler. Hypola/is icterina , , . . .79 

Eufous Warbler. Aedon galectodes . , . . 79 

BEED-WABBLER. Acrocephalus streperus , . . .79 

Marsb- Warbler. Acrocephalus palustns , . . 82 

Great Keed- Warbler. Acrocephalus turdo'ides . . . .82 

Aquatic Warbler. Acrocephalus aquaticus . . . 82 

SEDGE-WARBLEB. Acrocephalus phragmitis . . .80 

GBASSHOPPEB WABBLEB. Locustella ncevia . . . . . 82 

Savi's Warbler. Locustella luscinioid.es . . . . .84 

HEDGE- SPABBOW. Accentor modularis , . . . . 84 

Alpine Accentor. Accentor collaris . , . . .85 

DIPPEB. Cinclus aquaticus . . . . . 86 

Black-bellied Dipper. Cinclus melanogaster . . . .88 

BEABDED TITMOUSE. Panurus biamicus , , . 89 

Long-tailed Titmouse. Acredula caudata . , . .92 

LONG-TAILED TITMOUSE. Acredula rosea , 90 

GBEAT TITMOUSE. Parus major . , , . . 92 

Coal-Titmouse (Continental). Parus aler , . . , . 94 

COAL-TITMOUSE-. Parus britannicus . , . . .94 

MABSH-TITMOUSE. Parus palustris . . , . . . 96 

BLUE TITMOUSE. Parus cceruleus . , . . . .97 

CBESTED TITMOUSE. Parus cristatus . . 98 
NUTHATCH. Sitta ccesia ....... 99 

WEEN. Troglodytes parvulus . < . . . , 101 

White Wagtail. Motacilla alba . . . . , .108 

PIED WAGTAIL. Motacilla lugubris . . . . . 104 

GBEY WAGTAIL. Motacilla melanope ..... 105 

Blue-headed Yellow Wagtail. Motacilla flava . . . . 108 

YELLOW WAGTAIL. Motacilla rayii ... . 107 

MEADOW-PIPIT. Anthus pratensis . .... 108 

TBEE-PIPIT. Anthus trivialis ...... 110 

Tawny Pipit. Anthus campestris . . . . 118 

Richard's Pipit. Anthus richardi . . . . . .113 

Water Pipit. Anthus spipoletta . . . . . 118 

EOCK-PIPIT. Anthus obscurus . . . . . .112 

Golden Oriole. Oriolus galbulus . . . . . . 114 

Great Grey Shrike. Lanius excubitor , , . 116 

Pallas's Great Grey Shrike. Lanius major , , , , 116 
Lesser Grey Shrike. Lanius minor ..... 116 

BED-BACKED SHBIKE. Lanius collurio . . . , 114 

Woodchat. Lanius pomer anus . , . , . 116 

W oxwing. Ampelis garrulus , . , , , . , 114 

SHOTTED FLYCATCHEB. Muscicapa grisol , , . .116 



CONTENTS vii 

PAGB 

PIED FLYCATCHEB. Muscicapa atricapilla . . . H& 

Eed-breasted Flycatcher. Muscicapa parva 118 

SWALLOW. Hirundo rustica . . . - ? H 8 

MABTIN. Chelidon urbica . . . / 121 

SAND-MARTIN. Cotile riparia . . . n 122 

TBEE-CBEEPEB. Certhia familiaris . . , . .124 

GOLDFINCH. Carduelis elegans , .- * 120 

SISKIN. Chrysometris spinus ...... 127 

Serin. Serinus hortulanus ... .... 128 

GREENFINCH. Ligurinus chloris ...... 128 

HAWFINCH. Coccothraustes vulgaris . . . . . 130 

HOUSE- SPABBOW. Passer domesticus ..... 132 

TREE-SPABROW. Passer montanus . . 133 

CHAFFINCH. Fringilla coelebs ...... 134 

BBAMBLINO. Fringilla montifringilla . . . . 137 

LINNET. Linota cannabina ...... 138 

Mealy Kedpoll. Linota linaria . . ,. . . . 140 

LESSER KEDPOLL. Linota rufescens . . . 139 

Greenland Kedpoll. Linota homemanni . . . 140 

TWITE. Linota flavirostris ...... 141 

Rosy Bullfinch. Carpodacus erythrinus . 144 

BULLFINCH. Pyrrhula europcea ...... 142 

Pine Grossbeak. Pinicola enucleator . . . . . 144 

Parrot Crossbill. Loxia pittyopsittacus c 145 

CROSSBILL. Loxia curvirostra . .... 144 

White-winged Crossbill. Loxia leucoptera . . . .145 

Two-barred Crossbill Loxia bifasciata . . . . 145 

Black-headed Bunting. Emberiza melanocephala . . 154 

CORN-BUNTING. Emberiza miliaria . . . . . 146 

YELLOWHAMMEB. Emberiza citrinella ..... 148 

CIBL BUNTING. Emberiza cirlus . . . . . 150 

Ortolan Bunting. Emberiza hortulana ..... 154 

Kustic Bunting. Emberiza rustica '. . . . . . 154 

Little Bunting. Emberiza pusilla ..... 154 

KEED-BUNTING. Emberiza schceniclus . . . . 151 

Lapland Bunting. Calcarius iapponica ..... 154 

SNOW-BUNTING. Plectrophanes nivalis . . . . . 152 

STABLING. Stumus vulgaris . . . . . .154 

Rose-coloured Pastor. Pastor roseus . . . . . 156 

CHOUGH. Pyrrhocorax graculus . . . . , .157 

Nutcracker. Nucifraga caryocatacte* . . . . 174 

JAY. Garrulus glandarius ....... 158 

MAGPIE. Pica rustica .......* 160 

JACKDAW. Corvus monedula ...... 163 

CABBION CBOW. Corvus coron* . . . . . . 166 

HOODED CROW. Corvus comix ...... 167 

ROCK. Corvus frugilegus ....... 168 



viii BEITISH BIRDS 

I-AGH 

RAVEN. Corvus cotax . . ". . . . . 172 

SLYLARK. Alauda arvensis . \ ' , , . 174 

WOODLARK. Alauda arborea . . . . . . 176 

Crested Lark. Alauda cristata ; . . * . 178 

Short- toed Lark. Calendrella brachydactyla . ' ''.-"' . 178 

White-winged Lark. Melanocorypha sibirica < "' . . 178 

Shore Lark. Otocorys alpestris . . ,-.-.. . '* . 178 

Order PICARL&. 

SWIFT. Cypselug apus . . . . , . % . 178 

White-bellied Swift. Cypselus melba . . . .179 

Needle-tailed Swift. Acanthyllis caudacuta . , . 179 

NIGHTJAR. Caprimulgus europceus . . , . . 179 

Eed-necked Nightjar. Caprimulgus ruficollis . . . 181 

Egyptian Nightjar. Caprimulgus cegyptius * .. , . 181 

SPOTTED WOODPECKER. Dendrocopus major . . . . 181 

BABRED WOODPECKER. Dendrocopus minor -. . . . 183 

GTRFEN WOODPECKER. Gecinus viridis . . . 184 

WRYNECK. lynx torquilla .... . 186 

KINGFISHER. Alcedo ispida . . .... 188 

Belted Kingfisher. Ceryle alcyon . . ... . 189 

Koller. Coracius garrula . ^ ... >'-. 19 

Bee-eater. Merops apiaster ...... 190 

Hoopoe. TJpupa epops . . . ... , . 190 

CUCKOO. Cuculus canorus . . . , % ^ . 190 

Great Spotted Cuckoo. Coccystes glandarius . < . 193 

Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Coccyzus americanus . . 193 

Black-billed Cuckoo. Coccyzus erythrophthalmus . . r 198 

Order STBIGES. 

BARN-OWL. Strix flammea . . . , 193 

LONG-EARED OWL. Asio otus . . . * . . , ' , 196 

SHORT-EARED OWL. Asio brachyotus . . " , . . 197 

TAWNY OWL. Syrnium aluco . " ;. , . . . 198 

Snowy Owl. Nyctea scandiaca . . ', ' ''" . . 199 

European Hawk-Owl. Surnia ulula . , * ,' . . 199 

American Hawk- Owl. Surnia funeria . '> I fe . . 199 

Tengmalm's Owl. Nyctala tengmalmi V' . ' . . 199 

Scops Owl. Scops giu . . : '' . ' . t . 199 

Eagle Owl. Bubo ignavus . . * t 199 

Little Owl. Athene noctua . . . . .199 

Order ACC1PITBK5. 

Griffon Vulture. Gyp* fvlvus . . , . .216 

Egyptian Vulture. Neophron percnopterus , . . . 216 

Marsh-Harrier. Circus ceruginosus . . , . ' . 216 



CONTENTS Ix 

PAGK 

HEN HABBIEB. Circus cyaneus .... . 199 

MONTAGU'S HAEBIEB. Circus cineraceus . . . . 201 

BUZZABD. Buteo vulgaris ....... 202 

Bough-legged Buzzard. Archibuteo lagopus . . . . 216 

Spotted Eagle. Aquila clanga . ..... 216 

GOLDEN EAGLE. Aquila chrysaetus . . , . . . 204 

WHITE-TAILED EAGLE. Haliaetus albicilla .... 205 

Goshawk. Astur palumbarius . . . . . 216 

American Goshawk. Astur atricapilla ..... 216 

SPABBOW-HAWK. Accipiter nisus . . . . . 206 

KITE. Milvus ictinus ....... 207 

Black Kite. Milvus nigrans . . . . . .216 

Swallow- tailed Kite. Elano'ides furcatus . . . . .217 

Honey-Buzzard. Pernis apivorus . . . . . 217 

Gyrfalcon. Hierofalco gyrfalco . . 217 

Greenland Falcon. Hierofalco candicans . . . . 217 

Iceland Falcon. Hierofalco islandicus ..... 217 

PEBEGBINE FALCON. Falco per egrinus . . . . 208 

HOBBY. Falco subbuteo ...... 210 

MEBLIN. Falco cesalon . . . . . . 211 

Red-footed Falcon. Tinnunculus vespertinus .... 217 

KESTBEL. Tinnunculus alaudarius . . . , . . 212 

Lesser Kestrel. Tinnunculus cenchris . . . , . 217 

OSPBEY. Pandion haliaebus ..,,.,. '215 



Order STEGANOPODES. 

COBMOBANT. Phalacrocorax carbo ..... 218 

SHAG. Phalacrocorax graculus . . , . , 220 

GANNET. Sulabassana ....... 221 

Order HEBODIONE3. 

HEBON. Ardea cinerea ....,,., 23 

Purple Heron. Ardea purpurea . . . . . , 226 

Great White Heron. Ardea alba . . . . . . 226 

Little Egret. Ardea gazetta . . , . . .226 

Buff-backed Heron. Ardea bubulcus . . . , . 226 

Squacco Heron. Ardea rall&ides ...... 226 

LITTLE BITTEBN. Ardetta minuta . . . . . 226 

Night Heron. Nycticorax griseus ...... 226 

BITTEBN. Botaurus stellaris . . , . . . . 224 

American Bittern. Botaurus lentiginosus ... * 226 

White Stork. Ciconia alba ....... 226 

Black Stork. Ciconia nigra . . - . . . 226 

Spoonbill. Platalea leucorodia , . , , . . 226 

Glossy Ibis. Plegadis falcinellus . . > , . . 226 



BRITISH BIRDS 



Order ANSEEES. 

PAGB 

GREY LAO GOOSE. Anser cinereus . . 227 

BEAN-GOOSE. Anser segetum . . . . . 228 

PINK-FOOTED GOOSE. Anser brachyrhynchus . . . 229 

WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE. Anser albifrons . . . . 230 

Cassins Snow Goose. Chen albatus ..... 227 

BBENT GOOSE. Bernicla brenta . . ... 230 

BABNACLE GOOSE. Bernicla leucopsis ..... 232 

Ked-breasted Goose. Bernicla ruficollis . . . . . 227 

MUTE SWAN. Cygnus olor . . . . , . .233 

Polish Swan. Cygnus immutabilis . . . . 233 

WHOOPEB SWAN. Cygnus musicus . . . . . 234 

Bewick's Swan. Cygnus bewickii . . . . . 234 

COMMON SHELDRAKE. Tadorna cornuta ..... 235 

Buddy Sheldrake. Tadorna casarca . , . . . . 236 

WIGEON. Mareca penelope ....... 237 

American Wigeon. Mareca americana . u . . . 238 

PINTAIL. Dafila acuta . . 9 ... . 238 

MALLARD. Anas boscas . . , . . . . 239 

GADWELL. Chaulelasmus streperus 241 

GARGANEY. Querquedula circia . , . . 243 

Blue-winged Teal. Querquedula discors ..... 244 

COMMON TEAL. Querquedula crecca . . . . . 244 

American Green-winged Teal. Querquedula carolinensis . . 244 

SHOVELER. Spatula clypeata . . . . . . . 245 

Eed-Crested Pochard. Fuligula rufina . . . 246 

TUFTED DUCK. Fuligula cristata . . . . 246 

SCAUP. Fuligula marila ....... 247 

POCHARD. Fuligula ferina . . . . . . 248 

White-eyed Duck. Nyroca ferruginea ..... 246 

GOLDEN-EYE. Clangula glaucion . . . . . . 249 

Barrow's Golden-eye. Clangula islandica .... 246 

Buffel-headed Duck. Clangula albeola . . . 246 

Harlequin Duck. Cosmonetta histrionica '. < . . . 246 

LONG-TAILED DUCK. Harelda glacialis . 250 
Steller's Duck. Heniconetta stelleri . . . . .246 

EIDER DUCK. Somateria mollissima . . k . . . 251 

King Eider. Somateria spectabilis t . . . 246 

COMMON SCOTER. (Edemia nigra . . . . . 253 

VELVET SCOTER. (Edemia fusca . , . . . .254 

Surf-Scoter. CE demia perspicillata . , .. .... 246 

GOOSANDER. Mergus merganser . . , . r . 255 

RED-BREASTED MERGANSER. Mergus serrator . v . . 256 

Hooded Merganser. Mergus cucullatus ..... 246 

SMEW. Mergus albellus . . . . . . 258 



CONTENTS xi 
Order COLUMB^J. 

PAGR 

WOOD-PIGEON. Columba palumbua ..... 258 

STOCK-DOVE. Columba cenas . . ... . . 261 

ROCK-DOVE. Columba lima, ...... 261 

TUBTLE-DOVE. Turtur communis . . . . . . 262 

Passenger Pigeon. Ectopistes migratorius . . . 264 

Order PTEROCLETES. 

Pallas's Sand-Grouse. Syrrhaptes paradoxus . . . 264 

Order GALLING. 

PHEASANT. Phasianus colchicus ...... 264 

RED-LEGGED PABTBIDGE. Caccabis rufa . . . . 265 

Barbary Partridge. Caccabis petrosa ..... 266 

PAKTBIDGE. Perdix cinerea . . . . . . 267 

QUAIL. Coturnix communis ...... 269 

PTABMIGAN. Lagopus mutus . . . . . . 270 

RED GBOUSE. Lagopus scoticus ...... 272 

BLACK GBOUSE. Tetrao tetrix . . . 4 . 278 

CAPEBCAILLIE. Tetrao urogallus . . . . 275 

Order FULICARL33. 

WATEB-RAIL. Ballus aquaticus . . . . . . 277 

SPOTTED CBAKE. Porzana maruetta ..... 277 

Baillon's Crake. Porzana bailloni . . . , . 278 

Little Crake. Porzana parva ...... 278 

COBN CBAKE. Crex pratensis . . . . . , 278 

MOOBHEN. Gallinula chloropus ...... 279 

COOT. Fulica atra ........ 280 

Order ALECTORIDES. 

Crane. Grus communis ....... 281 

Great Bustard. Otis tarda . . . . . . 281 

Little Bustard. Otis tetrax . . ... 281 

Macqueen's Bustard. Otis macqueeni . * . . . 281 

Order LIMICOL^E. 

STONB-CUBLEW. CEdicnemus scolopax . . . . 282 

Collared Pratincole. Glareola pratincola .... 284 

Cream-coloured Courser. Cursorius gallicus . . . 284 

GOLDEN PLOVEB. Charadrius pluvialis .... 284 

Eastern Golden Plover. Charadrius fulvus . , . - 286 

GBEY PLOVEB. Squatarola helvetica .... 286 

KENTISH PLOVEB. ^gialitis cantiana . . 287 



xri BRITISH BIRDS 

PAGH 

Little Ringed Plover. JEgialitis curonica ... 288 

RINGED PLOVEB. Mgialitis hiaticula t . , , 287 

Killdeer Plover. JEgialitis vocifera . 288 

DOTTEREL. Endromias morinellus . . . , . 289 

LAPWING. Vanellus vulgar is . , , . . . .., . 290 

TUBNSTONE. Strepsilus interpres . . ." 4 ,,. t . 292 
OYSTEB-CATCHEB. Hoematopus ostralegus . ';.- . ~ .293 

Avocet. Recurvirostra avocetta . : <" . . 316 

Black-winged Stilt. Himantopus candidus , , , . 316 

RED-NECKED PHALAROPE. Phalaropus hyperboreus . . 294 

Grey Phalarope. Phalaropus fulicarius ..... 295 

WOODCOCK. Scolopax rusticula . . . . . 296 

GBEAT SNIPE. Gallinago major . . . . . .298 

COMMON SNIPE. Gallinago ccelestis . , . . 5 ' . 299 

JACK-SXIPE. Limnocryptes gallinula . . . . . 300 

Broad-hilled Sandpiper. Limicola platyrhyncha . . . 817 

Pectoral Sandpiper. Tringa maculata ..... 317 

Bonaparte's Sandpiper. Tringa fuscicollis . . , . 817 
DUNLIN. Tringa alpina . ,", - . . .300 

LITTLE STINT. Tringatninuta . . . , . 302 

Temmmck's Stint. Tringa temmincJci . . . . . 803 

A.mencan Stint. Tringa minutilla . , . . . . 817 

CUBLEW-SANDPIPEB. Tringa subarquata ... 803 

PUBPLE SANDPIPEB. Tringa striata . . , 804 

KNOT. Tringa canutus ...,,. 804 

RUFF and REEVE. Machetes pugnax. . ... 806 

SANDEBLING. Calidris arenaria . . , r . . . . . . 808 

Buff-breasted Sandpiper. Tryngites rufescens , . , . 817 

Bartram's Sandpiper. Actiturus longicauda , , 817 

COMMON SANDPIPEB. Tringo'ides hypoleucus .'.,* . . . 809 

GBEEN SANDPIPEB. Helodromus ochropus . ^ . . 810 

Wood-Sandpiper. Totanus glareola . . -. . . 816 

REDSHANK. Totanus calidris . . . . 810 

Spotted Redshank. Totanus fuscut . . . . . . 816 

GBEENSHANK. Totanus canescens . . . , . . 812 

Red-breasted Snipe. Macroramphus griseus . ; . . . 817 

Bar-tailed Godwit. Limosa lapponica . . . . 816 

Black-tailed Godwit. Limosa melanura . . . . 316 

Esquimaux Curlew. Numenius borealis ..... 817 

WHIMBBEL. Numenius phceopus . . . , 813 

CUBLEW. NumeniiM arguata . . . t . 814 

Order GAVLE. 

ARCTIC TEBN. Sterna macrura . . , 4 817 

COMMON TEBN Sterna fluviatilis . , , . , 319 

ROSEATE TEBN Sterna dougalli . . . . , . 820 



CONTENTS ' liii 

PAGE 

LITTLE TERN. Sterna minuta . . . . . 820 

Caspian Tern. Sterna caspia , ... 823 

Gull-billed Tern. Sterna anglica . . . . . 823 

SANDWICH TERN. Sterna cantiaca . . . . .822 

Sooty Tern. Sterna fuliginosa . . . . , . 823 

Scopoli's Sooty Tern. Sterna ancestheta ..... 823 

Whiskered Tern. Hydrochelidon hybrida ... . 323 

White- winged Black Tern. Hydrochelidon leucoptera . , . 323 

Black Tern. Hydrochelidon nigra . . . . . 823 

Noddy. Anoii* stolidus ....... 823 

Ivory Gull. Pagophila eburnea . . . . f b-2b 

KITTIWAKE. Bissa tridactyla ...... 823 

Glaucous Gull. Larus glaucus . . . . 829 

Iceland Gull. Larus leucopterus ...... 829 

HERRING-GULL. Larus argentatus . . . . . 824 

LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL. Larus fuscus .... 825 

COMMON GULL. Larus canua , . . . . . 826 

GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL. Larus marinus .... 827 

Great Black-headed Gull. Larus ichthyaetus . . . 830 

BLACK-HEADED GULL. Larus ridibundus . . . 328 

Little Gull. Larus minutus . . . . . , 830 

SABINE'S GULL. Xema sabinii ... . 330 

COMMON SKUA. Stercorarius catarrhacten . . . 830 

Pomatorhine Skua. Stercorarius pomatorhinus .... 333 

RICHARDSON'S SKUA. Stercorarius crepidatus . . , . 883 

Buffon's Skua. Stercorarius parasiticus ..... 833 

Order TUBINAEES. 

STORMY PETREL. Procellaria pelagica . . . . 833 

LEACH'S PETREL. 'Procellaria, leucorrhoa . 835 

Wilson's Petrel. Oceanites oceanicus . , . . 836 

MANX SHEARWATER. Puffinua anglorum ..... 836 

Sooty Shearwater. Puffinus griseus . . . . . . 837 

Greater Shearwater. Puffinus major ..... 337 

Dusky Shearwater. Puffinus obscurus . . . 837 

FULMAR. Fulmarus glacialis .,.,. 837 
Capped Petrel. CEstrelata hcesitata .... .839 

Bulwer's Petrel. Bulweria columbina . 839 



Order PYGOPODES. 

GREAT NORTHERN DIVER. Colymbus glacialis . . . 840 

BLACK-THROATED DIVER. Colymbus arcticus . . . .841 

RED-THROATED DIVER. Colymbus septentrionalia , ... 842 

GREAT CRESTED GREBE Podiceps cristatus . . . .842 

Red-necked Grebe. Podiceps gri&eigena . . . . 845 



xiv BRITISH BIRDS 

PAOB 

Sclavonian. Grebe. Podicepa auritus . . . 845 

Eared Grebe. Podiceps nigrocollis . . . . . . 845 

LITTLE GKEBE. Tachybaptes fluviatilis . . . . .344 

KAZORBILL. Alca torda . . . . . . 345 

COMMON GUILLEMOT. Lomvia troile ..... 347 

Briinnich's Guillemot. Lomvia bruennichi . . . . 351 

BLACK GUILLEMOT. Uria grylle ...... 850 

Little Auk. Margulus alle . . . . . . 851 

PUFFIN. Fratercula arctica .... 851 

INDEX , , ,858 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS. 



COLOURED PLATES. 

GOLDEN EAGLE . . . . By A. Thorium Frontispiece 

BEARDED TITMOUSE .... To face p. 89 

GOLDFINCH . . . . . . 126 

BITTERN 224 

COMMON TEAL t 244 

PTARMIGAN , . . 270 

DOTTEREL .... 289 

ROSEATE TERN .... 820 

PLATES. 

FIELDFARES ; MISSEL-THRUSH ; BLACK- ) T 

BIRD } By G. E. Lodge To face p. 89 

ROOKS ; JACKDAWS ; STARLINGS . 164 

LONG-EARED OWL; CHAFFINCH; GREAT,) 

BLUE AND, COAL TITS; GOLDCREST) " " 

GANNETS ; GUILLEMOTS ; HERRING- 

GULLS f " " 

MALLARDS ; PEREGRINE FALCON ; HERON ; \ 

COOT f . w 240 

JAY; WOOD-PIGEONS; PHEASANTS . . . 264 

OYSTER-CATCHERS ; RINGED PLOVER ; 

LITTLE STINT ; CURLEW . . 1" 

BLACK-HEADED GULLS; POCHARDS,) 

SHOVELER; WATER-HENS . J " 



ILLUSTRATIONS IN THE TEXT. 

BTO. 

1. SKELETON OF WING OF ARCHJEOPTERYX , _. ,__ . 70 . . 

._ [From 'Natural Science' 4 

WITH REMIGES ATTACHED . . . J 

2, 8. STRUCTURE OF A FEATHER . . . From ' Ibis ' . .5 

4. PORTION OF TWO ADJACENT BARBS . . . 6 



xvi BRITISH BIRDS 

FIO. PAQB 

6. FOOT OP PELICAN . From Owen's 'Anatomy of Vertebrates ' 10 

6. FOOT OP PEECHING BIBD 10 

7. FOOT OP KINGFISHER . 10 

8. STERNUM OF SHRIKE . 13 

9. WING OF NESTLING OPISTHOCOMUS . From'Natural Science' 15 

10. WING OP YOUNG FOWL OF SAME AGE AS 

FIG. 9 (O-P WING OF OPISTHOCOMUS) 

11. WING OF ADULT OPISTHOCOMUS ... r , 17 

12. WING OP HALF-GROWN OSTRICH . 17 

( From Owen's 'Anatomy \ 

18. PELVIS AND HIND LIMB OP DIVER . { of Vertebrates . } 19 

14. GIZZARD OF SWAN .... ,,21 

15. SYRINX OF EAVEN (Posterior Surface) 26 

16. SYRINX OF KAVEN (Lateral View) . ?,6 

17. SYRINX OF KAVEN CUT OPEN LONGI- > 

TUDINALLY .... I " " 

18. SONG-THRUSH ( natural size) . . By G. E. Lodge . 41 

19. THROSTLE'S NEST . . From Photograph by B. B. Lodge 44 

20. BLACKBIRD'S NEST . . 48 

21. KING-OUZEL (i natural size) . . By G. E. Lodge . 50 

22. WHEATEAR (J natural size) ... 52 
28. STONECHAT ($ natural size) . 56 

24. KEDSTART ( natural size) . . . . . 57 

25. REDBREAST ( natural size) . 59 

26. NIGHTINGALE (J natural size) . , .62 

27. WHITETHROAT (J natural size) . 64 

28. BLACKCAP (J natural size) ... . 67 

29. DARTFORD WARBLER ( natural size) . 71 

80. SEDGE-WARBLER ( natural size) . 80 

81. HEDGE-SPARROW ( natural size) . 84 

82. DIPPER (i natural size) ... 86 
88. LONG-TAILED TIT ( natural size) . . 91 

84. GREAT TIT ( natural size) ... 93 

85. CRESTED TIT ( natural size) . , 98 

86. NUTHATCH (| natural size) ... . 99 

87. WREN (i natural size) . . . ... 102 

88. PIED WAGTAIL (J natural size) . . .104 

89. GREY WAGTAIL (J natural size) . . . .106 

40. TREE-PIPIT (J natural size) . . ... 110 

41. KOCK-PIPIT ( natural size) . . 112 

42. BED-BACKED SHRIKE ($ natural size) 114 
48. SPOTTED FLYCATCHER ( natural size) . 117 

44. SWALLOW ( natural size) . . . .119 

45. MARTIN ( natural size) ... . 121 

46. TREE-CREEPER (J natural size) , . . . 124 

47. HAWFINCH (| natural size) . . ..... 130 

48. LESSER BEDPOLX. (J natural size) . . . 140 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS xvu 

WO. PAGB 

49. BULLFINCH ( natural size) . . By G. E. Lodge 142 

50. CROSSBILL ( natural size) ... ,. . 144 

51. YELLOWHAMMER (J natural size) . , ; . 148 
62. CIEL BUNTING (J natural size) . . . 150 

53. EEED-BUNTING (J natural size) . . . .151 

54. CHOUGH ( natural size) ... . . 157 

55. MAGPIE ( natural size) ... . 161 

56. BOOKS AND NEST . . From Photograph by B. B. Lodge 169 

57. BAVEN (j^ natural size) . . . By G. E. Lodge . 172 

58. SKYLARK ( natural size) ... .175 

59. NIGHTJAB (| natural size) ... ., . 180 

60. SPOTTED WOODPECKER ( natural size) . . 182 

61. GREEN WOODPECKER ( natural size) . ,, . 184 

62. WRYNECK ( natural size) ... . 186 

63. KINGFISHER ( natural size) . * ,, . 188 

64. HOOPOE . * ., , . 190 

65. CUCKOO ( natural size) ... ., t 191 

66. BARN-OWL (} natural sizej ... ,, , 194 

67. MONTAGU'S HARRIER ( natural size) . ,, 201 

68. BUZZARD (fa natural size) , ., . 202 

69. KITE (fa natural size) ... . 207 

70. PEREGRINE (fa natural size) . . . ,. . .209 

71. MERLIN (^ natural size) . . 211 

72. KESTREL ( natural size) ... . 212 
78. HONEY-BUZZARD (fa natural size) . ,, 217 

74. CORMORANT (fa natural size) ... , 218 

75. GREY LAG-GOOSE (fa natural size) . , 227 

76. BRENT GOOSE (^ natural size) . . . . 231 

77. BARNACLE GOOSE (fa natural size) . . 232 

78. SHELDRAKE (^ natural size) ... . 235 

79. WIGEON (} natural size) ... 237 

80. PINTAIL (^ natural size) . . . 239 

81. GADWELL (fa natural size) . . 242 

82. GARGANEY (fa natural size) . . . . .243 
83 TUFTED DUCK (fa natural size) . . 246 

84. EIDER DUCK (fa natural size) . . .251 

85. COMMON SCOTER (fa natural size) . . 253 

86. GOOSANDER (fa natural size) . . . .255 

87. BED-BREASTED MERGANSER (fa natural \ 

\ r * 257 
size) . . . . . ' 

88. BOCK-DOVE (| natural size) . . 262 

89. TuRTLE-DovE (J natural size) . . .263 

90. BED-LEGGED PARTRIDGE (| natural size) . . 266 

91. PARTRIDGE ( natural size) . 267 

92. QUAIL ( natural size) . . . 269 

93. BLACKCOCK (fa natural size) . . 274 

94. CAPERCAILLIE (fa natural size) , . 275 



BEITISH BIEDS 

FIO. "AO 

95. LANDBAIL (\ natural size) . . . . By G. E. Lodge 278 

96. STONE-CUBLEW (} natural size) ... 282 

97. GOLDEN PLOVEB (summer plumage) (J natural ) 

size) . . . . . . > M 

98. LAPWING ( natural size) .... ,, 290 

99. TUBNSTONE (\ natural size) ... 292 

100. GBEY PHALABOPE ( natural size) . . 295 

101. WOODCOCK ( natural size) ... 296 

102. DUNLIN (summer plumage) ( natural size) . <> r ; 801 
108. KNOT ( natural size) .... 805 

104. BUFF AND KEEVE (} natural size). ... 806 

105. SANDEBLINO (winter plumage) (J natural size) . ,, 808 

106. GBEENSHANK ( natural size) .... 812 

107. COMMON TEBN (\ natural size) ... .. 819 

108. LESSEB TEBN (^ natural size) ... 821 

109. BLACK TEBN (\ natural size) ... 828 

110. GBEAT BLACK-BACKED GULL (& natural size) , ,. 827 

111. GBEAT SKUA (^ natural size) ... 880 

112. STOBMY PETBEL (J natural size) ... 834 
118. MANX SHEABWATEB (^ natural size) . . ,, 836 

114. FULMAB ( natural size) .... ,, 338 

115. GBEAT NOBTHEBN DIVEB (^ natural size) . 340 

116. GBEAT CBESTED GBEBE (^ natural size) . . 842 

117. LITTLE GBEBE (J natural size) ... 9 844 

118. EAZOBBILL (winter plumage) (^ natural size) . ft 846 

119. LITTLE AUK ( natural size) ... 850 

120. PUFFIN (& natural size) .... 851 



INTEODUOTION. 



THE plan followed in the descriptive portion of this work 
has, I trust, the merit of simplicity. A brief account is 
given of the appearance, language, and life-habits of all the 
species that reside permanently, or for a portion of each year, 
within the limits of the British Islands. The accidental 
stragglers, with the irregular or occasional visitors, have been 
included, but not described, in the work. To have omitted 
all mention of them would, perhaps, have been to carry the 
process of simplification too far. And as much may be said 
of the retention in this book of Latin, or ' science ' names. 
The mass of technical matter with which ornithological works 
are usually weighted is scarcely wanted in a book intended 
for the general reader, more especially for the young. Nor 
was there space sufficient to make the work at the same time 
a technical and a popular one : the briefest description that 
could possibly be given of the characters of genera would 
have occupied thirty to forty pages. The student must, in 
any case, go to the large standard works on the subject, 
especially to those of Yarrell (fourth edition), Seebohm, and 
Howard Saunders, which are repositories of all the most 
important facts relating to our bird life, gathered from the 
time of Willughby, the father of British ornithology, down 
to the present. 

The order in which I have placed the species, beginning 
with the thrushes and ending with the auks, is that of 



xx BBITISH BIBDS 

Sclater, based on Huxley's classification, and is the arrange- 
ment adopted in the official list of the British Ornithologists' 
Union (1883). The B.O.U. list enumerates 376 species ; 
and of this number 211 species are counted as residents and 
regular visitants ; the remaining 165 being loosely described 
as ' Occasional Visitants.' About these aliens, which are 
claimed as citizens, something requires to be said. 

It has long been the practice of our ornithologists to 
regard as ' British' a ay species of which one specimen has 
been found in a wild state within the limits of the United 
Kingdom. As a result of this excessive hospitality we find 
in the list about forty-three species of which not more than 
three specimens have been obtained; in a majority of cases 
only one. We also find that there are not fewer than forty- 
five exclusively American species in the list ; but by what 
means, or by what series of extraordinary accidents, these 
lost wanderers have been carried thousands of miles from- 
their own region, across the Atlantic, and have succeeded in 
reaching our shores alive, it is impossible to imagine. It is 
highly probable that some of the American, Asiatic, and 
European waifs that have been picked up in these islands 
were birds that had escaped from confinement ; but whether 
brought by man or borne on the wings of the tempest to our 
shores, the fact remains that they are not members of our 
avifauna, and the young reader should clearly understand 
that only by a pleasing fiction are they called ' British.' 

I have spoken at some length on this subject, because it 
is one that appears to interest a great many persons who are 
not ornithologists. How many British species are there ? is 
a question that is continually being asked of those who are 
supposed to know. I should say that, in round numbers, 
there are 200 ; at the very outside, 210. Seebohm, in the 
introduction to his great work, gives 222 as the number oi 
species ' fairly entitled to be considered British birds ' ; but 
he probably counted some that are usually regarded as irre- 
gular visitors, and perhaps others which have been exter- 
minated in recent times. Of the 165 species set down in the 



TNTEODUCTION xxi 

1 British ' list as occasional visitors, about 55 or 60 deserve 
that description, since they do, as a facl;, visit the British 
Islands at irregular intervals. All the others are accidental 
stragglers. 

It only remains to add something on another subject the 
little life-histories of the two hundred and odd species de- 
scribed in this volume. Although this is in no sense a con- 
troversial subject, the apologetic tone must be still used. I 
wish that these sketches had been better done, but I do not 
greatly regret that they had to be brief. The longest history 
of a bird ever written, the most abounding hi facts and 
delightful to read, when tested in the only sure way 
namely, by close observation of its subject is found to be 
scarcely more complete or satisfactory than the briefest, 
which contains only the main facts. This is because birds 
are not automata, but intelligent beings. Seebohm has well 
said, 'The real history of a bird is its life-history. The 
deepest interest attaches to everything that reveals the little 
mind, however feebly it may be developed, which lies behind 
the feathers.' It has been remarked more than once that 
we do not rightly appreciate birds because we do not see 
them well. In most cases persecution has made them 
fearful of the human form ; they fly from us, and distance 
obscures their delicate . harmonious colouring and blurs the 
exquisite aerial lines on which they are formed. When we 
look closely at them, we are surprised at their beauty and 
the indescribable grace of their varied motions. An analogous 
effect is produced by a close observation of their habits 
or actions, which, seen from afar, may appear few and mono- 
tonous. Canon Atkinson, in his ' Sketches in Natural History ' 
(1865), has a chapter about the partridge, prefaced by Yarrell's 
remark, that of a bird so universally known there was little 
that was new to be said. While admitting the general truth 
of this statement, the author goes on to say : ' Still, I have 
from time to time observed some slight peculiarity in the 
habits of the partridge that I have not seen noticed in any 
professed description of the bird, forming certain passages, as 



xxii BRITISH BIRDS 

it were, of its minute history.' It is precisely this ' minute 
history ' that gives so great and enduring a fascination to the 
study of birds in a state of nature. But it cannot be written, 
on accoiiint of the infinity of ' passages ' contained in it, or, hi 
other words, of that element of mind which gives it endless 
variety. 

Let us imagine the case of a youth or boy who has read 
and re-read half a dozen long histories of some one species ; 
and, primed with all this knowledge, who finally goes out to 
observe it for himself. It will astonish him to find how 
much he has not been told. He will begin to think that the 
writers must have been hasty or careless, that they 
neglected their opportunities, and missed much that they 
ought not to have missed ; and he may even experience a 
feeling of resentment towards them, as if they had treated 
him unfairly. But after more time spent in observation he 
will make the interesting discovery that, so long as they are 
watched for, fresh things will continue to appear. The 
reflection will follow that there must be a limit to the things 
that can be recorded ; that the life-history of a bird cannot 
be contained in any book, however voluminous it may be ; 
and, finally, that books have a quite different object from 
the one he had imagined. And in the end he will be more 
than content that it should be so. 

W. H. H. 



BEITISH BIEDS. 



THE ANATOMY OF A BIRD. 

IT is very important that every one who studies birds should have 
some acquaintance with their insides as well as with their outsides. 
To have a proper appreciation of the mechanism of flight, the most 
distinctive attribute of a bird, we must explore the air reservoirs and 
muscles, which combine, with other organs, to form a complicated, 
but exquisitely adjusted, system. It is true that other animals show 
a similar adaptation to their several modes of life, but in a bird the 
necessities of life seem to have produced a more obvious and 
striking harmony between structure and habit. Furthermore, the 
young ornithologist should not be content with gaining the ability 
to recognise the different kinds of birds : he should understand their 
mutual relations, and the place of a bird in Nature. To form an 
opinion about these matters needs more than an acquaintance with 
the colours and outward form, and with the eggs and nest. A great 
deal can be learnt from these characters, but they are at most only 
useful in linking together closely related species. All the members 
of the extensive tribe of parrots, for example, are bound together by 
their hooked bills, their white eggs, their grasping feet, &c. But we 
want to go further, and determine what are the relations of the 
parrots to other birds which differ totally from them in all outward 
and visible signs. To solve, or rather to attempt to solve, broader 
questions of this kind we must have recourse to the scalpel, and 
even to the microscope. Besides, there not only are birds, but there 
were birds, which have now passed away utterly, leaving behind 
only a few bones embedded in the rocks. Nothing of an external 



BIRDS 

sis .in. considering what these birds were like in 
their day, and which of existing kinds they most resembled. We 
must have a knowledge of bones, of osteology, to grapple with 
the problems which they present. For these reasons I have dealt in 
the following pages principally with the organs of flight, and with 
those internal and external characters which are admitted to be of 
most use in classificatory questions. I have paid less attention to 
those organs which are not of importance from these points of view. 



Feathers and Feathering. 

It is only a very few birds that have a complete and continuous 
covering of feathers. The penguins are in this condition; and 
some of the ostrich-like birds are so, more than most others. But 
in other birds the feathers are arranged in tracts, between which 
are patches of quite, or nearly, bare skin. The technical name for 
the feathered districts is ' Pterylia ' ; that for the bare patches, ' Ap- 
teria.' If two birds, belonging to different families, are compared, 
it will often be discovered that they present considerable unlikeness 
in the mutual arrangement of the feathered and unf eathered tracts. 
In fact, it was pointed out not far from the beginning of this century 
that the dispersal of the feathers over the body was one of the very 
best characters for classifying birds upon. But when the author of 
this discovery, Professor Nitzsch, of Halle, first published his book 
on the matter, it was received with some ridicule, and the pictures 
of birds denuded of their feathers in order to show up clearly the 
feather tracts were ironically compared to a portion of a poulterer's 
shop. This ridicule, however, did not do away with the fact that 
the character is often of great use in settling the mutual relation- 
ships of birds. "When a bird is carefully skinned, it will be seen 
that the feather tracts have their own special slips of muscle inserted 
into the roots of the feathers. These muscles, when they contract, 
serve to raise the feathers slightly, and must be of at least sub- 
sidiary importance in flying. This is, perhaps, why the feather 
tracts are so well marked in birds that fly, and explains the reason 
for their unmarked character in birds that do not. We can easily 
understand that the movement of the feathers, if the covering were 
continuous, would be much more difficult and less pronounced than 
when there were separate patches far enough away from each other 
to allow of free and independent movement. In the Penguin, which 



THE ANATOMY OF A BIRD 8 

glides smoothly and rapidly-under water in pursuit of its fishy prey, 
a continuous coating of feathers is not only a source of additional 
warmth, but offers less resistance to the water ; so, too, with a run- 
ning bird like the Emu or Ostrich. But in the case of the latter, at 
any rate, the young nestling has quite distinct tracts and apteria, 
thus showing that, although nowadays it is incapable of flight, it 
has descended from an ancestor that could fly at least, that is 
the way in which it is customary to interpret such differences in 
structure between young animals and their parents. The Apteryx 
also, of New Zealand, is quite analogous. The old bird has a nearly 
continuous covering of feathers, but the unhatched young show 
perfectly distinct patches of feathers with bare spaces between. We 
shall show on another page that there are other arguments which 
appear to prove that all these flightless birds have been gradually 
derived in the course of time from birds that could fly perfectly 
well. They are an instance, BO far, of what is termed degenera- 
tion. 

The examination of any bird will show that it has several kinds 
of feathers. They are all constructed upon the same plan, but some 
are larger than others, and the smallest are soft instead of firm to 
the touch. 

The biggest feathers of all are a set which fringe the whig (see 
fig. 1) and another set at the end of the tail. These are called 
respectively the ' Eemiges ' and ' Beatrices,' or the ' rowing * feathers 
and the * steering ' feathers. Their principal use, as may be 
imagined, is in flight. The remaining feathers are also to some 
extent used in flight, but their main use appears to be to keep 
the body warm. An eider-down quilt, as everybody knows, is the 
warmest kind of coverlet ; the reason being that the feathers are very 
bad conductors of heat, and do not, therefore, allow the heat of the 
body to escape. Birds are the hottest of all animals, which is hi part 
due to their covering of feathers. To understand the structure of a 
typical feather is perhaps a little difficult ; but possibly the accom. 
panying figures (figs. 1, 2, 3, 4) will render the explanation easier 
to follow. The feather consists of a stem which is technically 
called the rhachis, the word simply signifying stem. From each 
side of this a row of parallel rodlets arise which are called barbs. 
These in their turn give rise to another set of processes which 
are the barbules. This, however, is not all ; the barbules are firmly 
locked together by other processes, so that the entire feather is 
quite firm, and can be used as a kind of oar with which to row 



4 BEITISH BIRDS 

through the air. It does not give when the wings are flapped. The 
barbules are of two sorts, those nearest to the root of the barb being 
different from those which are nearest to its tip. The former, as 
is shown in fig. 2, are shaped something like a knife-blade ; 
they are thickened above and bent in the middle ; they gradually 
taper away to a fine point. Just in the middle, where the bend 
is, are two or three small teeth (2, fig. 2) on the upper margin. 
By means of these teeth-like processes the successive barbules are 
attached to one another. At the end of each barb, as already men- 
tioned, the barbules are of a different structure. A few of them are 




Fia. 1. SKELETON OF WINO OF ARCMEOPTERYX WITH KEMIOES ATTACHED. 
(Eestoration after Pycraft, Natural Science,' vol. v.) 

I, II, III, digits. 

illustrated hi fig. 4. The end is frayed put into a number of 
delicate spines, of which those farthest from the actual tip are 
hooked, while those at the tip are only curved and not hook-like. 
All these spines are called barbicels. They are upon the lower edge 
of the barbule ; but upon the upper edge are a few shorter and 
stouter spinelets. As the barbules come off in an oblique direction, 
it follows that each one of them overlaps a considerable number, in 
fact five, barbules of the opposite barb. The attachment is by these 
booklets, or hamuli, as they are usually termed. The stiff feathers 



THE ANATOMY Off A BIRD 




FIGS. 2, 3. (After Wray in ' Ibis ' for 1887.) 

B, Barbs; bp, proximal barbules ; 1, flange; 2, 'dog-tooth,' part of flange; 
8, overlapping portion. 




Fia. 4. POBTION OP TWO ADJACENT BARBS. (After Wray in Ibis ' for 1887.) 
B, barbs ; W, bp, barbules (distal and proximal). 



6 BEITISH BIBDS 

which have this elaborate structure are not found at all in the 
ostrich-like birds ; in them there is no need for a firm surface to 
catch the air ; on the contrary, it would be, if anything, disadvantage- 
ous to swift runners, as those birds are. The feathers, therefore, are 
much reduced in complexity, and in some they consist only of the 
stem and the barbs. Even in flying birds there are plenty of feathers 
of a simple structure lying between the stronger contour feathers. 
These are the soft feathers which are generally spoken of as ' down.' 
Some of them are so reduced as to consist of little more than the 
stem. The same reduction is seen in the wing feathers of the 
Cassowary. Along the margin of the wing are a few strong black 
spines, which are really the quills of the wing feathers with no barbs 
at all ; they consist merely of the stem, which has not dwindled in 
the least, but is quite as strong as it would be in a feather of use for 
flying. In a good many birds the contour feathers and the down 
feathers also have a kind of appendix, known as the aftershaft. This 
is a sort of supplementary feather arising from the stem just at the 
point where the barbs, begin, and having precisely the structure of a 
small feather. In the Emu and the Cassowary this aftershaft is fully 
as large as the main feather ; from each stem in these birds arise as 
it were two feathers. 

The most curious modification, however, of the feather is into 
that structure known as a * powder-down.' These feathers have, as 
their name denotes, a powdery appearance, which is due to the 
continual breaking off of the fine ends of the barbs ; the feathers 
themselves are soft, and belong to the variety of feathers which 
have been described as down feathers. The dusty matter which 
they give off has been described as ' dry and yet fatty to the touch.' 
They are found in various birds ; they do not characterise any one 
particular group, except the Heron tribe ; some Parrots have them, 
a few Hawks, and certain other genera. It has been said that they 
are phosphorescent ; and it has been suggested that their presence 
in the heron is of use to it in its fishing. The light, it is thought, 
attracts the small fishes within reach of the heron's long bill. But 
this appears to be one of those exaggerations founded upon actual 
fact which are so common hi natural history. 

Another important fact about a feather is its colour. There is 
no purely white bird hi this country and not very many that are 
chiefly white. But there are some, like the Gulls and the Storks. 
The nearest approach to an absolutely white bird is the beautiful 
little Egret, whose plumes are, unfortunately, so much used in 



THE ANATOMY OF A BIRD 7 

feminine adornment. As concerns its feathers, this bird is absolutely 
white, but other parts of the body are black. A bird that is purely 
white, not only in the feathers but in the legs and beak, is called an 
albino. This state of affairs is not commonly met with, but it 
sometimes occurs ; everybody has heard of that contradiction in 
terms, but actually existent creature, the ' white blackbird.' In all 
these cases there is something wanting in the feather ; for white is 
not a colour it is the negation of colour, and is due in nearly every 
case to the scattering of the rays of light which fall upon the 
object. This happens when the material that is coloured white is 
broken up into minute fragments separated by air. The froth of 
the sea or of a brimming tankard is simply due to the entangling of 
bubbles of air, which scatter the rays of light. The stems of the 
feathers contain bubbles of air, which bring about a like effect. But 
the majority of birds are coloured, and, as a rule, perhaps, brightlj 
coloured. We have not in this country many birds which can 
compare with the gaudy parrots of the East ; but brilliancy of hue 
is by no means wanting in the birds of this and of other countries 
which enj oy a temperate climate. It used to be said that brilliancy of 
colour was a characteristic of the tropics. But it is always pointed out 
by way of a refutation of that statement, that the Golden Pheasant 
of China is as gorgeous a bird as any which exists. There are few 
small birds which are really more brilliant in hue than our Yellow- 
hammers, Goldfinches, Bullfinches, and some others. We have, it 
is true, nothing to seriously compete with the Huniming-birds ; 
but these birds are found not only in the tropical forests of Brazil, 
but also in North America and upon the snowy summits of 
the Andes, and can therefore hardly be used as an instance of the 
exclusive restriction of brilliant colour to a tropical climate. 

The hues of the feathers are due to two causes. In every case 
where there is colour at all the feathers contain a certain amount 
of dye, or pigment, as it is more usually termed ; this pigment may 
be alone responsible for the colour of the feather, or it may be only a 
part of the cause. If the bright blue feather from a Macaw's wing 
be roughly pressed so as to injure the surface, the blue colour will 
disappear from the rubbed place, and will be apparently replaced 
by a brownish black. The reason for this is that the blue colour is 
the result of the actual structure of the feather, which requires the 
underlying black pigment for its manifestation. The crushing 
destroys that structure and leaves only the dark pigment. The 
brilliant and varying hues of the soap-bubble and of mother-of-pearJ 



8 BRITISH BIRDS 

are examples of substances which owe their colour to their 
structure; and the hues of the bird's feather are produced by a 
similar kind of structure. Finely ruled lines engraved upon the 
feather just below a clear and transparent outer skin are responsible 
for the tints of different colours. But there are many birds whose 
colours are entirely due to the pigments. The most interesting 
instance of this in many ways is an African bird, the Touraco. 
This bird is green for the most part, but the feathers of the wingp 
are of a magnificent crimson. "When the birds take to the wing 
this gorgeous colour is displayed ; before, it is concealed by the 
overlying feathers. The colouring matter can be easily extracted 
from the wing, and it forms a solution of a splendid crimson as 
bright as the substance called cochineal, which is the product of an 
insect. It was once said that this colour could be, and was as a 
matter of fact, washed out from the wings of the bird during heavy 
storms of rain, and that when a touraco was shot and fell into the 
water it stained the water red, not with its blood, but with the dye 
from its feathers. This is, however, an exaggerated way of putting 
the fact that even very feebly alkaline water will dissolve out the 
colour. Some of the yellows of the woodpeckers and the browns 
and reds of other birds are solely brought about by the presence of 
pigments. 

In speaking of birds as * feathered songsters ' or as ' feathered 
bipeds,' we are a little apt to lose sight of the fact that they are also 
scaly an error which is occasionally rectified by the view of an 
obtrusive pair of legs belonging to the fowl upon the dinner-table. 
The legs of birds are nearly always scaly ; there are a few excep- 
tions or nearly exceptions. For instance, there is a special breed 
of pigeons with feathered legs ; and the sand-grouse, which makes 
those remarkable and periodical invasions, has legs which are more 
covered with feathers than with scales. 

The possession of scales is one of the most striking points of 
resemblance between birds and reptiles. At first sight it seems to 
be almost absurd to attempt to draw any parallel between the active, 
feathered, hot-blooded bird and the scaly, cold-blooded reptile ; yet 
there are many resemblances, some others of which will be indicated 
in the following pages. In the meantime we are concerned with 
the scales. These are flat plates, produced by a horny alteration of 
the soft underlying skin, which are precisely like those of the lizards 
and snakes. No other animals possess scales ; those of the 
armadillo appear to be not unlike the scales of reptiles and birds, 



THE ANATOMY OF A BIRD 9 

but they really are pot, nor are those of the scaly manis, which are 
more comparable to closely matted tufts of hair. The scales of a 
fish are totally different, since they are not formed by the true skin, 
the epidermis, at all, but by the underlying dermis. In no bird, 
however, are there scales upon any part of the body except the 
legs. But one bird makes a near approach to having scales else- 
where. This is the Penguin, the feathers of whose wings are 
flattened and very scale-like. But the characteristic fringing of 
the feather can be detected on a careful examination. The penguin 
uses its wings as paddles to fly under water. A branching and 
delicate feather would be worse than useless under such circum- 
stances ; hence the superfluous fringing of the stem of the feather 
has been got rid of, and the feather itself has become flattened and 
lies close to the skin. 

Beak. 

The beak is simply a horny tract of skin which has become 
hardened for its special uses. It is not even distinctive of the bird ; 
for turtles, particularly the snapping turtles, have beaks which are 
not only precisely like those of birds, but are equally effectual when 
turned to aggressive ends. It is a commonplace of knowledge that 
the bill or beak presents an almost endless variety of form, which is 
associated with an equally diversified use. The remarkable shovel- 
shaped bill of the duck is suitable for dabbling in soft mud, just as 
is the hooked beak of the hawk or owl for tearing living prey. The 
most prevalent form of bill is that possessed by most passerine birds, 
a conical longer or shorter bill. The relatively enormous beak of 
the toucan is serrated along the free edge, which enables its possessor 
to obtain a firmer grasp of the fruits upon which it feeds. The 
ridges upon the inner surface of the beak in the ducks serve an 
analogous purpose ; the same structure is seen in the bill of the 
Flamingo, though the outline of the bill is unlike that of the duck, 
and gave rise to the idea, or at any rate had something to do with 
the former impression, that the flamingo was a long-legged duck. 
But, as a matter of fact, there is a stork in which there is precisely 
the same ridging of the beak, and it is more usual now to place the 
flamingo among the storks, or near to them. The Spoonbill, as 
its name denotes, has a beak which is at the extreme of the series 
of beaks which are useful for sifting the mud at the bottom of 
pools and rivers; the extremity is widened and flattened out. 



10 



BRITISH BIEDB 



Most singular is the recurved bill of the Avocet, and equally so 
the under -jawed Bhynchops, the,terms used implying the peculiars 
ties in each case. There is no living bird which lacks a beak ; but 
in some of the extinct and toothed birds, which are again referred 
to later, the beak was absent. Its place was taken in them by the 
teeth. 

Feet. 

Hardly less diversified in form are the feet of birds. The skeleton 
of this part of the body is dealt with on another page ; here we are 
concerned only with the external form of the feet and legs. Aquatic 





FIG. 5. FOOT OP PELICAN. 



FIG. 6. FOOT OF 
PERCHING BIBD. 



birds often have webbed feet, but not always. The Dipper, for 
example, is a bird which lives largely on and under the water, but 
its feet are not in the least like those of a 
Duck or Grebe. The webbed foot presents 
us with at least two varieties. In the Pelican 
tribe (fig. 5) the extreme of web-footedness 
is to be seen. Here all the toes (four) are 
connected by a webbing. In the Duck only 
three of the toes are webbed Another kind 
of webbed foot is termed palmate. In the 
Coots, for example, each toe is fringed with a 
broad membrane, but there is no connection 
between the fringes of successive toes. The 
toes of birds are apt to be differently disposed. 
In most birds (fig. 6) there are three toes 
which are turned forwards, and one, the great 
toe (hallux), which is turned backwards. But in the Trogons and 
others two toes are turned forwards and two backwards, thus pro- 
ducing a very efficient mechanism for holding on tightly to the bough 




FIG. 7. FOOT OF 
KINGFISHER. 



THE ANATOMY OF A BIRD 11 

of a tree, a mechanism which is shared by that, in some other 
respects, bird-like lizard, the chameleon. A foot of this kind is 
technically called ' zygodactyle.' A singular modification of the 
foot is seen in the Kingfisher (fig. 7) where the two middle toes are 
enclosed in the same fold of skin ; this is called syngenesioua/ 

Skeleton. 

A bird's skeleton is wonderfully light and spongy in texture. It 
is full of ah* (see below, p. 27), but deficient in marrow. Its entire 
structure is pre-eminently suited to a flying creature, not only for the 
above reasons, but because the heaviest part (the sternum) lies in 
the middle, in the centre of gravity, and thus assists in preserving 
the balance, like Blondin's pole. 

The Skull. 

The skull of a bird is composed of a large number of separate 
bones, which are very closely united in the adult bird, so much s6 
that it is next to impossible to recognise that they are distinct bones. 
The bones are also thin and light, for to a flying animal any weight 
forward would be most disadvantageous. The weight of the bird 
should be, and is, concentrated in the middle of the body. We can 
divide the skull into two regions : behind is the smooth, rounded 
brain- case or cranium ; in front is the face, which is largely en- 
sheathed by the beak. It is chiefly formed by the maxillary and 
nasal bones above, and by the palatine and pterygoids below. The 
length of this part of the skull is subject to great variation in different 
birds. In the Storks, for instance, the face is extremely long, while 
in the Parrots it is comparatively short. 

Professor Huxley, about thirty years ago, proposed to classify birds 
by the form of the bones of the palate. In the skull of the Hawk, 
it will be seen that two bones lying in the front region of the palate 
are fused with each other in the middle line, and to the type of skull 
which is thus characterised the name ' desmognathous ' was given. 
It is found not only in the Hawks, but in a quantity of other birds ; 
for instance, in the Stork tribe, and in the Hornbills and Toucans. 
The second form of skull distinguishes the gallinaceous birds ; in 
them the two maxillo-palatines remain unconnected, and the palate 
is therefore in a way cleft ; this is termed the ' schizognathous ' 



12 BEITISH BIRDS 

skull. In the finch tribe there is a slight modification of this, called, 
from the Greek word for a finch, * aegithognathous.' In these birds 
a median bone, called the vomer, from the fact that the bone to which 
it corresponds in the human skull is shaped somewhat like a plough- 
share, is truncated in front, instead of tapering, as it does in the 
schizognathous skull of the common fowl. There is a fourth variety, 
which marks out the Ostrich tribe and the American Tinamous, in 
which the two pairs of bones called the pterygoids and palatines do 
not, as they do in the types of skull that have been hitherto considered, 
reach the middle line of the skull, but are kept off from it by the 
vomers, which extend backwards. The term * dromseognathous,' or 
emu-like, is applied to this form of skull. If the back of any bird's 
skull be examined, it will be noticed that just below the great hole 
or foramen, through which the medulla passes to join the spinal cord 
in the canal of the vertebral column, is a rounded, rather kidney- 
shaped boss. This is the occipital condyle, by means of which the 
skull articulates with the first vertebra. If you look at the same 
region in a mammal, you will find that there are two of these, one 
on each side, though also below the foramen magnum. This is one 
of the many points of structure that distinguish a bird from a 
mammal and ally it to the reptiles ; but it must be remembered 
that in some reptiles there is a commencing division of the single 
condyle into two. 



The Vertebral Column. 

Like all other backboned animals, birds have a chain of small 
bones running along the back, and enclosing a canal in which runs 
the spinal marrow. In most vertebrates some of the individual 
vertebrae in the region of the hind limb, the sacral region, are some- 
what intimately fused together, f orming a more solid structure for 
the support of the pelvis. In birds the strong coupling of the 
vertebrae is more marked, and extends to the dorsal region. The 
mechanical value of this to a flying animal is clear ; it is analogous 
to the tight coupling of an express tram, and prevents the back from 
bending from side to side under the strain produced by the powerful 
movements of the muscles in flight. The tail vertebras show some 
curious modifications in different birds. In the typical carinate 
bird, the last few vertebrae are fused into a piece which is called 
the 'plough-share bone,' or 'pygostyle.' The name of this bone 



THE ANATOMY OF A BIRD 



13 



sufficiently indicates its shape ; the expanded end of the bone serves 
as a firm base, upon which rest the strong tail feathers. Now, in the 
ostrich tribe there are no rectrices comparable in size to those of 
the flying carinates. Here there is no pygostyle, but the individual 
vertebrae are small and disconnected. They are, however, few hi 
number, whereas in the Archaeopteryx they are numerous, though, 
oddly enough, not so numerous altogether as are the tail vertebrae of 
some flying birds. Each individual vertebra in the Archseopteryx 
supports a pair of rectrices, which are thus arranged in a series, and 
not in one row. A very distinctive peculiarity of the vertebrae of 
birds is the saddle-shaped centrum. The centrum of the vertebra 
is the solid piece which underlies the canal of the spinal cord, the 
walls of the latter being formed by the neural arches, which unite 
above to form a neural spine. In other 
vertebrates the centra are flat (mammals), 
orproccelous (the concavity being forward), 
or opisthoccelous (the concavity posterior), 
or amphicoelous (concave on both sides). 
This latter form of vertebra is frequently 
met with in archaic forms belonging to 
various groups. It occurs, for example, 
in many fishes. Such reptiles as Hypero- 
dapedon and the Geckos have the same 
kind of vertebrae. Among birds there is 
no existing genus or species which is to 
be thus characterised ; but the extinct 
Ichthyornis had clearly biconcave ver- 
tebrsB. 



Shoulder Girdle. 




This series of bones serves as the inter- 
mediary between the fore limb and the 
vertebral column. It consists of three dis- 
tinct elements. There is, first of all, a 
sword-blade-like bone with sharp edges, 
which lies along the vertebral column 

the scapula. To the end of this is firmly attached a somewhat 
shorter bone, which approaches its fellow as it joins the sternum 
below ; this bone is known as the coracoid (52. fig. 8,). The angle 



Em. 8. STERNUM OF 
SHRIKE. 

h t ribs ; 58, furcula ; 52, cora- 
coid ; 59, anterior end of 
sternum. 



14 BRITISH BIRDS 

between these two bones is, in flying birds, a considerable one, but 
in the ostrich tribe they are almost in the same straight line ; 
this is really connected with the power of flight, for it has been 
ahown by careful measurements that, in birds which still have 
wings that bear every appearance of being functional, and yet are 
not used for their legitimate purpose, the angle tends to approach 
the obtusity of the scapula and coracoid of the Ostrich. Birds 
have, besides these two bones, the merry-thought, or clavicle 
(58, fig. 8), which corresponds to our collar-bone. Its two halves are 
generally closely united to form one U-shaped or V-shaped bone ; 
but sometimes they are separate, and then more or less rudimentary. 



Wing. 

We must enter into the matter of wing a little more closely it 
is so important a feature of bird organisation. The whig, of course, 
although it performs so different a role, is the exact equivalent of 
the fore limb of mammals. We can easily recognise precisely the 
same bones, though they are diminished in number, and often of a 
different form. It will be noticed that in each case we can dis- 
tinguish the three bones forming the arm, and which are known as 
the humerus, the radius, and ulna. The rest of the limb in the bird 
is not quite so obviously like the hand of the mammal; but a 
little attention will show that it is constructed upon a perfectly 
similar plan. The flexible wrist of the mammal is made up of many 
small bones ; the hand itself is made up of a larger series still, of 
which those nearest to the wrist are technically termed the meta- 
carpals, and those which follow, the phalanges. In many mammals 
there are five fingers ; but there are many which have less, and the 
extreme is reached in the horse, which has to put up with a single 
finger and small rudiments of two others. Now the bird is better 
off in the way of fingers than the horse, as it has three fairly well- 
developed fingers, or rather two well developed and one less perfect. 
The shortest finger corresponds to the thumb of our hand. It is 
more freely movable than the others. The metacarpal bones of the 
second and third fingers are firmly welded together, and are long ; 
each finger (as will be seen from a look at fig. 1, p. 4) has one 
or two phalanges, as the case may be. Now in mammals the end 
phalanx of each finger is tipped with a nail, or with a hoof. The 
powerful claws of the tiger, used for tearing, and the solid hoof 



THE ANATOMY OF A BIRD 



10 



of the ox or horse, upon which the creature walks, are one and the 
same thing. It might be supposed that the hand of the bird, which 
is not an organ of offence or meant to walk with, might be shorn of 
these appendages. But this is not the case : every bird has at 
least two nails (fig. 9), of a long and rather claw-like form when well 
developed, and sometimes three nails, that is, one to each of its fingers. 
It looks, therefore, very much as if the whig of the bird had been 
formed out of a limb that was once an organ for climbing or walking 
with. There is a curious bird, found in British Guiana, which is 
known as the Hoatzin (figs. 9, 11). In the very young nestlings of the 
hoatzin the claws of the fingers are so conspicuous that they are 
actually used by the callow chick to climb with, before the feathers 
of the wings have grown sufficiently to enable them to use their wings 
in the proper way in which a bird should ; it has been said also, that 




7 6 5 4 

Fm. 9. WING OF NESTLING OPISTHOCOMUS. (After Pycraft in 
1 Natural Science.') 

The second digit (II) is free, being prolonged beyond ala membrane (P.m.), 
and remiges 8-10 are not developed, 

other birds scramble about and use their claws when they are young. 
In the case of the hoatzin, it is stated that the thumb and the first 
finger can be brought together so as to lay hold definitely of an 
object. A very important thing to notice about the whig bones is 
that they are capable of but little movement upon each other. There 
are two hinges, one at the elbow, and the other at the wrist ; but the 
radius and ulna cannot move round each other, as they can in our 
arms, and the fingers are fixed and rigid. This would be most un- 
fortunate if the whig had to be used as a walking or climbing limb ; 
but it is most useful in relation to the function which the wing has 
to perform that of flight. The strength of the downward stroke 
would be enfeebled if the bones were in a limp condition and moved 
upon each other. They offer, too, a firm foothold for the thick 
quills of the big feather? of the wing. It has been mentioned that 



16 



BRITISH BIRDS 



all the evidence at our disposal points to the view that the wing 
has become gradually moulded into an organ of flight, from a con- 
dition in which it played a different part. The earliest bird of which 
we have any record had wings which were much less perfect as 
flying organs than those of modern birds. It seems pretty plain 
that the bones in that antique bird were much less rigidly fixed 
together, and it is equally clear that the fingers were very much 
more loosely attached to one another. They were also more on an 
equality as regards size ; the great disparity evident in fig. 12 is 
not to be seen in the Archseopteryx. All this, of course, shows that the 
Archseopteryx could not have possessed the ample pinion of its more 
vigorous descendants of to-day. The fossil Archseopteryx looks a 
little like a crow would look after receiving at close quarters a charge 
of duck shot ; but a closer examination will show that in reality all 



III 




P.m. 

Fio. 10. WING OF YOUNG FOWL OF SAME AGE AS FIG. 9 (OF Wras o 

OPISTHOCOMUS). (After Pycraft in ' Natural Science.') 

The hand is shorter, and not fitted to be a grasping organ. 

the bones are there, on one side at least. Out of the disjecta membra 
of the fossil numerous ' restorations ' have been put together, which 
are as diverse as the minds which imagined them. We cannoi 
really say with certainty what were the precise relations of the 
hand to the feathers. It seems most probable that the hand of this 
' mediaeval ' bird still retained the ordinary functions of a hand ; 
that it served its possessor to lay hold of convenient branches, from 
which it fluttered feebly to others. One bold speculator has insisted 
upon the probability that the Archseopteryx had the requisite five 
fingers of the presumed ancestral type ; but there are no traces of 
them, except in so far as the lie of the feathers enables a hint to be 
gathered. Boring operations, or at least prospecting in the interior 
of the stony slab on which the fossil lies, might reveal some 
additional fingers ; but the operation would be fraught with too 



THE ANATOMY OF A BIRD 



17 



obvious perils to a nearly unique object. There are a good many 
birds which do not, and some which cannot, fly. To the first cate- 
gory belong such birds as the domestic ducks and fowls, and some 
of the rails. These birds, when put to it when chased by a dog, for 
example can often fly ; but as a rule they do not, or at most only 



III 




II 



FIG. 11. WING OF ADULT OPISTHOCOMUS. (After Pycraft in 

' Natural Science.') 
The hand is smaller relatively to the forearm ; c, the claw of digit I, much reduced. 

flutter along. The Ostrich tribe and a few other birds have totally 
lost the power of flight. But though this is the case, the bony 
structure of the hand remains the same in the Ostrich and in the 
American Khea ; in the Cassowary, however, and the Apteryx of New 
Zealand, the fingers are reduced to one. The last stage in the 
atrophy of the organ of flight is seen in the giant and extinct birds 

Mfl.T 




Mc.l. 

Fio. 12. WING OF HALF-GROWN OSTRICH. (After Parker.) 
I, II, III, digits ; B., U., D.c.f., carpal bones ; Me., metacarpals. 

of New Zealand, the Moa or Dinornis, in which no trace of a wing has 
been so far discovered. But hi some of these birds in which the whig 
is reduced hi size, or so simplified in structure that it can no longer 
serve its legitimate purpose, it is made use of for other purposes. 
When the Ostrich skims along the surface of the sandy deserts 



18 BRITISH BIRDS 

where it is often found, it holds out both wings, which are compared 
to sails ; they possibly serve rather as the pole of the tight-rope 
walker, to preserve the balance of the bird when hurrying along at 
full speed. In the Secretary Vulture of Africa the wings can be 
used for flying, but they are also used as weapons wherewith to 
combat the poisonous snakes upon which the bird so usefully feeds. 
It strikes down the venomous serpent when the latter is attempting 
to strike the bird. The Chauna of South America has strong spurs 
upon its wings, which are used for fighting as well as for flying. 
But the most curious use to which wings are put is afforded by the 
Penguin. If the reader has never seen the ' diving birds ' fed at the 
Zoological Gardens, let him go there on the first opportunity, and 
see how rapidly and gracefully the Penguin ' flies ' under water by 
the flapping of its wings. They are shorter than those of most 
birds, and the feathers have become flattened and almost scale-like, 
so as to offer no resistance to the water ; at the same time the 
bones of the wing are flattened, BO that a broad surface is provided, 
which of course acts like an oar. With this oar-like wing the 
Penguin can outswim a small fish. 



Sternum and Ribs. 

The breast-bone or sternum (fig. 8, p. 13) of birds shows the samo 
relation to the power of flight that is shown by so many, if not by all, 
parts of the skeleton. It is relatively a very large bone, and is in all 
perfectly flying birds furnished in the middle line, below, with a 
strongly marked keel, the presence of which has given its name to 
the great group of birds called carinates. The ostrich tribe, from 
whose sterna the keel is absent, are termed ' ratite,' or * raftlike.' 
The reason for the keel is the attachment of the great pectoral 
muscle, which is the most important muscle of flight. The sternum 
often offers useful characters to the systematist. The surface of the 
bone is sometimes in various degrees fenestrate, or more or less 
deeply incised, the one condition being an exaggeration of the other, 
and both the conditions being due to defective ossification. The 
sternum is attached to the vertebral column by the ribs, which are 
well developed in all birds, but vary very much in number. A 
highly characteristic feature of the ribs of birds is a small bony pro- 
jection of the hinder margin of a certain number of them, called 
the uncinate processes. These are present in all birds, with the 



THE ANATOMY OF A BIRD 



19 



single and remarkable exception of the South American Screamers 
(Chauna, Palamedea), a group of birds occupying a rather isolated 
position, and showing resemblances to a great many different groups. 



Pelvis. 

The hind limbs are attached to the vertebral column by means 
of a considerable bony structure known as the pelvic girdle (fig. 13). 




FIG. 13 PELVIS AND HIND LIMB OF DIVER. 

c, d, ilium ; 63, ischium ; 64, pubis ; 65, femur ; 66, tibia ; 67, fibula; 
68, tarsometatarsus ; i.-iv. digits with phalanges numbered. 

This mass of bone is in reality composed of three pairs of elements, 
though they are in the adult strongly compacted together. The main 
bone, which is firmly attached to the vertebral column, is the ilium ; 
with this is almost completely fused the ischium ; the very slender 
pubis is to a large extent free from these bones. The pelvis is in its 



20 BEITISH BIBDS 

form one of the most characteristic of the bones of the bird's 
skeleton. In other animals the three bones are present, but they 
are directed away from each other ; in the bird, as already described, 
the pubis is directed backwards, parallel to the ischium ; in corre- 
spondence, perhaps, with its position it has become a feeble bone, and 
has but few muscles attached to it. The interest of the matter, 
however, is mainly in the fact that among the extinct Dinosaurs, a 
race of mesozoic reptiles, there were some in which the pelvis had 
a \ ery bird-like structure, with the same feeble and recurrent pubis. 
This has been urged as a mark of affinity between the Dinosaurs 
and birds. The several bones of the pelvis are free from each other 
at the extremity, or almost so, in all the Eatites, and in the Tinamous, 
which are supposed to bear some relationship to the Katites. The 
fact is interesting as being an example of the retention of a character 
by one group of birds which is only transitional and embryonic in 
another, for in all young birds the bones of the pelvis are separate ; 
it is not until some time before hatching that they become fused 
together as we see them in the adult. 



Hind Limb. 

At first sight there appears to be a considerable difference between 
the fore limb and the hind limb. In both there is a long proximal 
bone, called humerus in the one case and femur in the other, followed 
by a pair of bones the tibia and fibula corresponding to the radius 
and ulna of the fore limb. But in the hind limb (fig. 13), the foot 
proper, consisting of metatarsals and phalanges, appears to come 
immediately after the tibia and fibula. In a sufficiently young bird, 
what is the apparent lower end of the tibia, and what is equally 
apparently the upper end of the metatarsus, are detachable ; these 
two halves which are thus detachable are the tarsus, which is the 
equivalent of the carpus of the wing. The lower bone of the leg is 
on this account usually spoken of as the tarso-metatarsus. The 
lower part of this bone is made up of three fused elements, the separa- 
tion of which from each other is clearly apparent at the lower end 
of the bone, where the phalanges are attached. In the Penguins 
the three bones are separated by grooves of a very marked character 
throughout. In some birds there is a fourth toe, the hallux ; in these 
cases there is a small separate metatarsal loosely fixed to the lower 
end of the large conjoint metatarsals. 



THE ANATOMY OF A BIRD 



Gizzard and Alimentary Canal. 

The gizzard (fig. 14) of the fowl is simply a part of the stomach 
which has especially hard and muscular walls, the other half re- 
maining soft hi texture ; this latter is termed the proventriculus, and 
into it open the mouths 
of glands which secrete 
the digestive juice of the 
stomach. But the mus- 
cular part of the stomach 
the gizzard has to 
grind down the fre- 
quently hard food of the 
bird, so it has not 
merely a strong wall 
made of muscle, but 
also a very tough lining ; 
the whole organ, there- 
fore, forms a highly 
efficient mechanism for 
crushing and grinding 
the seeds and other hard 
vegetable food which is 
swallowed. It is ren- 
dered more useful still 
for this purpose by the 
pebbles which every 
bird takes care to swal- 
low. The true and 
singular stories about 
the varied contents of 
an Ostrich's stomach are 

founded upon the fact that, like other birds, it picks up stones, and 
with them occasionally other objects. But all birds do not possess a 
hard gizzard ; in Hawks and fish-eating birds the walls are thinner, 
and the organ is flaccid instead of being rigid. By a very curious and 
unique exception certain Tanagers, a race of large, often bright- 
coloured, American, finch-like birds, have nothing at all that can be 
compared to the gizzard of other birds this part of the alimentary 




FIG. 14. GIZZAED OF SWAN. 

o, orifice of duodenum ; 
a, end of proventriculus ; cd t muscular part of gizzard. 



22 BBITISH BlttDS 

canal is totally wanting. Now the difference between the gizzard of 
the grain-eating fowl and the flesh-eating hawk is chiefly a matter of 
diet. The celebrated anatomist, John Hunter, who lived in the last 
century, and wrote so much about the anatomy of all kinds of 
animals, including birds, found that he could feed a soft-stomached 
bird into one with a hard gizzard, and vice versa. 

We can pass briefly over the rest of the alimentary system, 
which does not vary a great deal in different birds. The intestines 
are always rather short, and are diversely coiled, the method of 
coiling being. often characteristic of a particular group. A good way 
down the intestine are a pair of caeca, which may be entirely absent, 
as in the Hornbills, for example ; and if present may be extremely 
short, as in the Sparrow, or very long, as in the Ostrich ; various 
intermediate degrees exist. As in all vertebrated animals, two 
glands pour their secretion into the intestine ; these are the pancreas 
and the liver. The secretion of the liver is the bile ; this fluid is 
accumulated as it is formed in a largish bag the gall-bladder, in 
those birds which possess one. Shakespeare used the epithet 
pigeon-livered,' which meant literally the absence of a gall-bladder ; 
but , oddly enough, there are some kinds of pigeons which have a gall- 
bladder, while others, like the common pigeon, have not. The intes- 
tine ends in the cloaca, which is the common chamber into which 
the urinary and generative organs also open. 



Tongue and Teeth. 

In the inside of a bird's mouth we find only one of the two things 
chat we might expect to find : there is a tongue, but no teeth. We 
shall come back to the teeth immediately. The tongue is not so use- 
ful among the majority of birds as it is in most mammals. But 
some do make use of it to a great extent. If you watch a parrot 
eating its food, you will observe that its thick and fleshy tongue is 
of the greatest assistance in helping it to manipulate the pieces ol 
food to extract, for instance, the kernel from a seed or nut. It 
plays exactly the same part as it does with us. In one kind of parrot; 
called the Brush-tongued Parrakeet,' the tongue is frayed out at 
the free end into a brush -like extremity. And there are some small 
birds, which peck at flowers and live upon honey, in which the 
tongue is thin and delicate, and frayed out in the same way ; this 
allows them to suck up the juices of the flower. In the Humming- 



THE ANATOMY OF A BIED 28 

bird the tongue is rolled up so as to form two tubes running side by 
side, and the same power of sucking up juices is acquired by this 
means, which, curiously enough, is exactly paralleled by the pro- 
boscis of the butterfly. In other birds the tongue is sometimes merely 
a thin, flat, horny projection, and in others, again, it is just not 
absent altogether. 

A little reflection about the habits of birds will show that they 
really do not want teeth ; and we know that Nature is a most rigid 
economist : nothing superfluous is allowed in the body. Even 
rapacious birds like Owls and Hawks have no teeth, because they 
have a powerful beak and claws, with which the food may be as 
effectually torn to pieces. Birds such as the Pigeon, which feed upon 
grain, possess a gizzard which we have had something to say about 
already that performs effectually the function of a mill, grinding 
into a powder the hard grains of wheat and other seeds which the 
bird swallows. Nevertheless birds once did possess teeth. In 
earlier times of the history of this earth there were some birds 
whose jaws had as formidable a range of teeth as the mouth of 
many reptiles. They were fish-eaters, and have been named 
Hesperornis and Ichthyornis. The first was something like a Diver 
in shape, the latter more like a Gull. A still more ancient bird, the 
oldest form of bird known to us, the Archceopteryx, had also toothed 
jaws. In fact, in the old days it was the rule for birds to have teeth, 
whereas now it is the rule, without a single exception, for birds to 
be toothless. Perhaps these ancient and extinct forms had some 
corresponding disadvantage when compared with their modern 
representatives ; their teeth and claws, for example, may have been 
less effective. But although there is no bird now living which has 
real teeth, traces of these organs have been discovered in the young 
embryos of certain birds, which seems to be an absolute proof that 
they, at any rate, had for their first parents toothed birds. But 
although modern birds have no teeth, with enamel, dentine, and so 
forth, all complete, the horny beak has occasionally ridges which to 
some extent play the part of teeth. The inside of the Duck's mouth 
is rough with such ridges, which occur also in some other birds. 
The large Flamingo was for some time regarded as a long-legged 
and awkward Duck that had partially adopted the habits of a Stork, 
partly on account of the fact that the inner edges of the beak were 
ridged in a fashion exactly like that of the Duck. But it happens 
that there is a Stork, a true Stork, in India, whose scientific name 
is Anastomu8 % which has similar ridges. Ducks feed to some 



24 BEITTSH BIED8 

extent upon shellfish, which the roughened edges of the beak are 
well suited to crush. The replacement in the course of ages of true 
teeth by horny teeth is seen a curiously parallel case in the Duck- 
billed Platypus of Australia, which has when adult horny plates 
instead of teeth, but when young has real teeth. 



Heart 

As with all vertebrated animals, birds have a centrally plnced 
heart, with which are connected arteries and veins, the two systems 
of tubes being connected at the ends farthest away from the heart 
by minute vessels the capillaries. In relation, no doubt, to the 
intelligence and activity of birds, as compared with their slower 
relatives, the reptiles, we find a heart of much more perfect organi- 
sation. There are four distinct chambers, as in the mammal, so 
that the arterial and venous blood are separate, and do not com- 
mingle. The two sides of the heart are only in indirect communi- 
cation by way of the arteries and veins and capillaries. The left 
ventricle gives rise to the aorta, which is the great arterial trunk of 
the heart ; this divides into the carotid and other arteries, which 
supply the entire body, with the exception of the lungs. The blood, 
which is sent out through this vessel by the contractions of the ven- 
tricle, permeates the system generally, and is then collected into a 
series of veins, which ultimately unite into two great veins, he 
venae cavse in front, and a large vein situated posteriorly, the in- 
ferior vena cava. These pour the blood back into the right auricle, 
whence it passes at once to the right ventricle. From the right 
ventricle it is driven into the lungs, whence it is returned to the left 
auricle, and so into the left ventricle to renew the circulation. The 
two chambers of each half of the heart are guarded from each other 
Dy valves, which only allow the blood to flow in the proper direction, 
as stated in the above brief description of the course of the circulation. 
It is a curious fact that the valve which separates the right auricle 
and ventricle is a completely muscular structure, while the other is 
membranous. Moreover, it does not form a complete circle, but is 
deficient upon one side of the orifice. The interest of this fact is 
not merely in its abnormality, its divergence from what one would 
expect, but in the resemblance which is thus shown to a group of 
mammals, the Monotremata. This group includes only the Duck- 
billed Platypus of Australia and the spiny Anteater (Echidna) of the 



THE ANATOMY OF A BIRD 25 

same continent and New Guinea. In both of these animals the 
heart valve in question is also largely muscular, and does not 
entirely encircle the opening from the auricle. These two mammals 
also, as everyone knows by this time, have the strange habit for a 
mammal of laying eggs, which is one among some other reasons 
which once led naturalists to place them in the neighbourhood of 
birds. The egg-laying, of course, is not distinctive, since reptiles 
have the same way of bringing forth their young ; and as to the 
heart valve, it is rather to be explained by the fact that both types 
of animals are low in the scale of then* respective groups, and there- 
fore both approach a common ancestral form. 



Voice Organ. 

By their voice, too, birds are distinguished from the rest of the 
animal creation. Though there may be legends of singing serpents 
and of talking monkeys, a harsh scream or a growl is the only 
manifestation of the emotions through the voice which exists until 
we arrive at man. Among birds, the possession of a melodious 
voice is limited to that group which we term the Passeres. Other 
birds can scream or utter a dull note, while many are mute. So 
flexible is the voice organ of these creatures that they are the only 
animals that can imitate human speech. Here, however, it is not 
only the Passeres which can imitate the essential attribute of man. 
The Parrots, of course, are always supposed to be the birds which 
can talk, but this is far from being the truth. The hoarse utter- 
ances of most Parrots are left far behind in clearness of sound and 
correctness of imitation by the little Indian Mynah, which may 
be usually seen at the Zoological Gardens, and heard to speak. But 
the Parrot cannot sing. These are the only two groups of birds 
which have so elaborate and flexible an organ of voice. From this 
it might be inferred that some peculiarities of mechanism would 
distinguish the organ in question of these birds, and that is what 
we actually find to be the case. But, oddly enough, it is not only 
those birds which have a beautiful voice whose voice organs are so 
elaborate in structure. The harsh croak of the Eaven issues from a 
syrinx which is as delicately fashioned as that which allows of the 
exquisitely varied tones of the Nightingale. The word ' syrinx ' has 
been mentioned ; that is the technical term for the voice organ of 
the bird, which is formed from a part of the windpipe, as in man 



BRITISH BIRDS 



and the mammalia, but from a different part of that tube. In man 
and in mammals the voice organ is placed in the throat just a 
little way down, at the prominence often spoken of as * Adam's 
apple.' This is a wider part of the tube, with larger rings of cartil- 
age, which contains a pair of tightly stretched membranes that can 
be made to vibrate and cause a sound. In the bird, the voice organ 
is situated farther down, at the very point where the trachea forks 
into the two bronchi, one for each lung. Here are figures which 
illustrate the voice organ of a singing-bird (figs. 15, 16, 17). At 




FIG. 15. SYRINX OP 
RAVEN (Posterior 
Surface). 
/, tympanifonn membrane. 



FIG. 16. SYRINX OF 
RAVEN (LATERAL 
VIEW). 

G, bj c, t, /, Intrinsic 
muscles ; d, sterno- 
tracbeal muscle. 



FIG. 17. SYRINX OF 
RAVEN CUT OPEN 
LONGITUDINALLY. 

<, pessulus ; A, vibrating 
membrane; g, mem- 
brana tyiupanif onnis. 



this forking of the trachea the rings of the tube, which are of 
gristle or cartilage, become somewhat different in form. In the 
middle is a piece, which is often converted into bone, like the 
'three-way' piece used to fix together the stick and the hoop of 
cane of a butterfly-net. To the upper side of this, and therefore 
within the tube, and directed upwards, is a little crescent-shaped 
piece of membrane (h, fig. 17) ; this can be set vibrating by the 
stream of ah- passing up and down the windpipe. At the sides 
of the syrinx there are shown in the figure (fig. 16) three pairs 



THE ANATOMY OF A BIED 27 

of muscles ; these when they contract shorten the syrinx, and 
of course produce alterations in the note, just as the shortening of 
the tube in a cornet alters the sound. In many passerine birds, and 
in most other birds, there is only one pair of these muscles ; but the 
Parrots agree with the passerines in having several pairs of muscles, 
and therefore a more easily alterable syrinx. In a good many birds 
there are no muscles at all in this place ; for example, in the Storks, 
which have not by any means a flexible voice. The syrinx, in fact, 
is one of those organs which show a great deal of difference in 
different kinds of birds. But it is never entirely absent, though 
rather rudimentary in the Ostrich. The Australian Emu has a 
curious way of producing its sounds which is not found in any other 
bird. The cock and hen Emus can only be recognised by their 
voice, which is duller in the hen and sharper in the cock. When 
the bird is uttering its note, it seems almost to come from some- 
where else, and not from the throat of the bird ; the bird is some- 
thing of a ventriloquist. The sound, which is a low bellow, is pro- 
duced by a bag of skin opening into the windpipe some way up 
the neck ; a current of air passing down the tube is believed to set 
the air in this bag in vibration, just as the air in a key may be 
caused to vibrate by blowing over its edge. Generally speaking, 
the windpipes of birds are straight tubes running to the lungs by 
the shortest route ; but in the Cranes, and in a few other birds, the 
pipe is coiled upon itself once or twice, and the coils are even hidden 
in an excavation of the breast-bone. The increased length of tube 
gives a louder and more resonant note, such as we know character- 
ises the Crane. 

Lungs and Air-sacs. 

Ifc is not only by virtue of their powerful muscles and stiffened 
fore limbs that birds can fly. The body is rendered lighter in pro- 
portion to its bulk by air-cavities, which permeate everywhere, even 
into the substance of the bones. So thorough is this aeration in the 
Screamer of South America, that when the skin of the recently dead 
bird is roughly pressed it crackles. Curiously enough, there seems 
to be no very definite relation between the degree of thoroughness 
to which the aeration of the body is carried out and the capacity 
for flight. The Screamer, that has just been mentioned, is fuller of 
air-cavities than the Frigate-bird, in which the art of flying is carried 
to the highest extreme the ' triumph of the wing,' as Michelet says 



28 BEITISH BIRDS 

in 'L'Oiseau.' Anyone who has the opportunity of dissecting a 
Hornbill will be struck by the large and abundant air-spaces 
between the muscles. This applies even to the Ground Hornbill 
of Abyssinia; and yet the latter, as its name denotes, lives 
upon the ground, while the flight of other hornbills is heavy and 
most unsuggestive of lightness of body. These air-spaces are in 
direct communication with the windpipe. It is much easier to 
understand then* arrangement by the actual dissection of a bird. 
We must first get a notion of the position and form of the lungs, 
which differ very much from the lungs of other animals. In 
a rabbit, for example, or any other mammal, the lungs lie freely on 
each side of the heart, and are capable of being pushed here and 
there after the body is opened, and of much expansion and diminu- 
tion of volume during the movements of respiration. But the lungs 
of all birds are tightly fixed to the wall of the chest cavity, being, 
as it were, moulded on to the ribs and vertebrae ; when they are 
carefully picked away from their place, they retain the impressions 
of the bones which they touch. There is no great possibility here 
of independent movements on the part of the lungs. Kespiration 
is effected in a totally different manner ; it is, in fact, bound up 
with the mechanical filling of the air-spaces. Each of the two lungs 
is contained within a large compartment, which is bounded exter- 
nally by an obliquely disposed septum, often spoken of, on account 
of its direction, as the * oblique septum.' Others call it the dia- 
phragm, imagining that it is the equivalent of the diaphragm in 
the mammal, that partly fleshy, partly tendinous plate which shuts 
off the cavity of the chest, in which lie the heart and lungs, from 
the cavity of the abdomen, in which lie the intestines, stomach, and 
liver. Now, this oblique septum does not by any means closely in- 
vest the lungs ; on the contrary, a deep space is thereby shut off, at 
the bottom of which are the lungs. This cavity is subdivided by 
two partitions into three separate compartments. It requires a 
very skilful manipulation to show the fact, but it can, with care, be 
demonstrated that each of these compartments is lined by a delicate 
membrane, which is continuous with the lung, and is actually a kind 
of bubble, as it were, blown out of the lung ; these delicate sacs are 
the air- sacs. There are altogether nine of them, but all these sacs 
do not lie within the cavity bounded by the oblique septa. The 
largest pair of all the abdominal air-sacs project into the body cavity 
far behind the gizzard. Now these sacs are fairly easy to see in a 
dissection ; but it is not so easy to make out that they are all of 



THE ANATOMY OF A BIBD 29 

them, except the middle two, connected with a system of ramified 
air-spaces which, as already said, permeates the body generally, 
lying among the viscera, between the muscles below the skin, and 
deep into the actual interior of the bones. But though it is difficult 
to see this by a dissection, it is easy enough to prove it by inflating 
them. If a syringe is passed down the windpipe and tied carefully 
into it, so that no air can escape at the sides, and air is blown down 
the tube, the passage of the ah* into the skin and other parts can 
be followed ; if a bone be cut across, the air can be noticed to issue 
from the cut surface ; and if the experiment be varied by using a 
coloured fluid instead of air which is pumped in by a syringe 
the fluid can be seen to ooze from the end of any bone or muscle 
that has been cut across. A bird, therefore, when it takes in a deep 
breath, not only supplies its lungs with fresh air, but fills its whole 
body with the superfluous air. It has been proved that a bird can 
continue to breathe if it be held under water, and only the end of a 
broken limb allowed above the surface ; for, as all the spaces of air 
are in communication with the'lungs, they (the lungs) can obviously 
be as conveniently filled from one end as from the other. When 
you are bathing, and take a very deep breath as you are swimming, 
you can detect a sensible increase in the buoyancy of the body ; in 
a bird, of course, the difference is enormous, after the sacs are filled, 
from a condition of comparative emptiness. The way in which a 
bird breathes is different from the way in which a human being 
breathes. There is, of course, the essential resemblance that is shown 
between all animals that have definite organs which are set apart 
for respiration : the feathery gills of the marine worms, the closely 
set branchiae of the fish, the lungs of the bird and of the mammal, are 
all constructed upon one plan, so far as essentials are concerned. In 
all of them blood-vessels are brought into close relation, though not 
into actual contact, with water or air containing oxygen. The blood- 
vessels are separated from the water or air by the thin membranes 
of the lungs or gills, through which the oxygen can pass in to the 
blood, and the carbonic acid and effete gases can pass out ; it is this 
exchange which is the essential act of respiration. We cannot, 
however, in this book pretend to go into general matters of this kind, 
which would take us too far from the subject at hand ; but anyone 
who would pursue this further can consult Professor Huxley's * Ele- 
mentary Physiology,' or any other elementary text-book upon physio- 
logy. When a mammal a human being, for example breathes 
certain muscles are called into play. If a person is watched, it will 

D 



80 BRITISH BIRDS 

be seen that the chest expands during inspiration, and that its calibre 
diminishes during expiration. What happens is this. The lungs are 
contained in a cavity which contains no air. This cavity can be in- 
creased in size in two directions. When the ribs are moved out 
which they can be by the movements of the muscles called inter- 
costal, which lie between them the cavity of the chest from before 
backwards is evidently enlarged. On the other hand there is the 
diaphragm, which we have already spoken of as bounding the chest 
cavity below. Now this diaphragm is muscular, with a tendinous 
centre. When the muscles contract, like all muscles do, the surface 
of the diaphragm, which was before rather convex towards the 
chest cavity, becomes more flat ; hence the cavity lying above it, i.e. 
the chest cavity, becomes larger in a downward direction also. When 
it is increased in this way by the action of the two separate sets of 
muscles, some space more space than before is left between its 
walls and the lungs which lie within it ; it follows, therefore, that, 
as there is no air in the cavity, the pressure of air outside the body 
forces more air into the lungs, because there is no counterbalancing 
pressure to prevent this. The principle is the same in the bird, 
but the details are different. If you will turn again to the 
bird's skeleton, you will see that the backbone and ribs and 
sternum form a bony box, which is jointed in the middle ; this 
acts precisely like a pair of bellows : the bones at top and bottom 
represent the wood, and the soft intervening leather of the bellows 
is represented by the muscles which lie between, and which connect 
the sternum with the abdomen and with the ribs. When these 
muscles contract, the sternum is obviously brought nearer to the 
backbone, and air is expelled from the inside ; when they are re- 
laxed, a vacuum is created and air rushes in. The air-spaces, then, 
are really ramified tags of lung which have no blood-vessels in their 
walls, and are therefore not meant for respiration, but serve as 
reservoirs of air, lightening the body of the creature. It is curious 
that birds are not the only animals which possess expansions of 
lung that are apparently useless for breathing purposes. The lungs 
of the Chameleon have quite similar sacs appended to them. There 
is, it is true, no such complicated a ramification as that which we 
find hi the bird, but still there is no doubt that the structure is of 
the same natur 3. It looks almost like a first step in the path towards 
a bird. Very possibly the extinct Pterodactyles, which flew through 
the woods of the middle ages of the earth, had bodies lightened in 
the same or a similar way ; for we know that their bones have thin 



THE ANATOMY OF A BIRD 81 

walls, the large cavity of which in all probability contained air-sacs. 
Even some of the jumping Dinosaurs, to which reference has already 
been made, seem to have possibly had lungs constructed on the 
bird type. We see, therefore, that even where a bird is, so to speak, 
most characteristically a bird in the subsidiary mechanisms of 
flight it betrays a likeness to the comparatively grovelling reptile, 
letting alone the aerial and more bird-like Pterodactyles. 



Brain. 

The brain of birds is large in proportion to the body, thus 
contrasting with that of the unintelligent reptile. From some 
tables on the matter which have been published, it appears that, if 
weight of brain goes for anything, the goldfinch is one of the most 
intelligent of birds. The weight of its brain is one-fourteenth oi 
the entire weight of the body. The most unintelligent of all is the 
domestic fowl, whose body is 412 times heavier than its brain. The 
size of brain, however, seems to be largely a matter of the size of 
the bird : generally speaking, the smaller birds have heavier brains, 
and vice versa. One might have expected something from the 
apparently intelligent Parrot ; but the brain of the ' Amazon ' is only 
one forty-second part of the weight of its body. Even the cruel and 
bloodthirsty Hawk, which one associates with brutality and ignor- 
ance, has a brain which is but little heavier. 

The front part of the organ, known as the cerebral hemispheres, 
or, more briefly, as the cerebrum, is that part of the brain which 
is associated with intelligence. Now among the mammals this 
part of the brain is generally much furrowed, the brain surface being, 
therefore, increased without any actual increase in the skull-spaco 
required. This furrowing is met with in most mammals, but not 
always in the smaller and in the less intelligent kinds. But hi 
the bird's brain there are no convolutions : the surface is as smooth 
as in the reptile. Not even in the artful Raven, which some hold 
as the most highly developed of birds, is there a trace of the fur- 
rowing which one rightly associates, so far as the mammalia are 
concerned, with a high position in the series. The hinder part of 
the brain i? known as the cerebellum ; between this and the 
cerebrum are the optic lobes, of which there are only two, the 
mammals having four. From the brain arises the spinal cord, or 
marrow, which runs in the canal formed by the vertebrae, just as 



82 BRITISH BIRDS 

the brain lies hi the brain-case. The nerves of the body come 
off either from the brain or the marrow, but it is not important to 
enumerate them. They show no difference in different kinds of 
birds. 



The Muscles. 

The muscles of a bird are what is popularly known as its flesh. 
When the skin is removed, the bones are seen to be covered by a 
mass of this flesh, which is of a red colour, darker in some birds 
than in others. For instance, in a Duck the colour is a dark red ; 
in a Pigeon, quite a pale brown. The flesh is not, however, merely 
a thick sheet covering the bones : it can be separated into layers 
which are themselves made up of a number of separate pieces 
of muscle. These individual muscles are very commonly of a 
spindle-like shape, being thickest in the middle and dwindling 
towards both ends, where they often end in a tough substance called 
the tendon, which has a glistening and very characteristic appear- 
ance. All muscles are not of this form sometimes they are strap- 
shaped ; and not all of them end in tendons. As the most important 
act of the bird's life that depends upon its muscles is flying, it is 
not surprising to find that the muscle which effects the downward 
stroke of the wing is the largest. This muscle is known as the 
great pectoral, and it is said to be almost as large as all the other 
muscles of the body put together. The way in which a muscle 
effects the movements of the bones to which it is attached is by con- 
tracting. All muscles are able to contract ; they shorten, and, ac- 
cordingly, the ends, with whatever they happen to be attached to. are 
brought closer together. The contraction is governed by the nerves, 
and it has been discovered that the nerves actually end in communi- 
cation with the fibres of which the muscle is composed. This pectoral 
muscle lies on the breast-bone, and nearly completely covers it ; in- 
deed, only the edge of the keel appears, and a very little tract at the 
sides. "When this muscle is dissected away another muscle, not nearly 
so large, comes into view underneath it ; this is called the pectoralis 
secundus, or the second pectoral. Its action is precisely the reverse 
of that of the great pectoral : it pulls the whig up instead of down. 
Between them, these two muscles do most of the work in flying. 
Naturally, in the ostrich tribe, which do not fly, they are much re- 
duced in bulk. But they are never absent altogether, even in the 



THE ANATOMY OF A BIED 88 

Apteryx, which is, perhaps, further removed from the possibilities of 
flight than any other bird. 

A very curious muscle runs into the patagium of the wing, which 
is that fold of skin which lies between the shoulder and the hand. 
This muscle is called the patagial muscle. It starts from the 
shoulder as a fleshy band, but soon ends in two long tendons : one 
of these follows the upper margin of the patagium, and finally ends 
in the wrist ; the other passes down over the patagium, and ends 
below in connection with some of the muscles of the arm, and also 
by being attached in a fan-shaped way to the skin itself. The 
function of this muscle is to assist hi the folding up of the wing 
when it is, so to speak, put away after use. The tendons in which 
the latter part of this muscle ends often show a most complicated 
branching in the patagium; they frequently offer characteristic 
differences in different birds, and are made some use of by the 
systematist. The bird has got a biceps to its arm just as we have. 
It sometimes happens that this biceps gives off a muscular slip, 
which runs into the patagium and becomes attached to the upper 
of the two tendons of the patagial muscle. A good deal of stress is 
laid by certain ornithologists as to whether this biceps slip is absent 
or present. Several of the common British birds will afford material 
to the beginner to ascertain for himself some of the chief variations 
in these and the other muscles of the body. It will be a good 
exercise to get a few birds, and to carefully dissect two of them, be- 
longing to as widely different kinds as possible, side by side. You 
might select, for instance, a Crow and a Pigeon, which are fairly 
extreme types. To revert to our account of the muscular anatomy 
of a bird, it will be impossible to attempt any comprehensive account 
of this branch of the subject, because the facts are so appallingly 
numerous. We shall content ourselves, therefore, with the men- 
tion of a highly characteristic bird muscle which occurs in the leg. 
This muscle is known as the ambiens. This muscle is thin and 
ribbon-like. It takes its origin from a little process of the pubio 
bone usually called the prepubic process. From this point it runs 
along the inside of the thigh until it reaches the knee ; it then bends 
over the knee arid comes out on the other side, where it runs down 
the leg to join the deep flexor muscle of the foot. When this 
ambiens muscle contracts it pulls upon the flexor muscle, already 
referred to ; the effect of this is that the toes are brought together 
by the tendons in which the last-mentioned muscle ends. The 
ambiens is far from being universally present among birds. It is 



B4 BRITISH BIRDS 

notably absent from the passerine birds (the Sparrows, Crows, Books, 
and small perching birds generally), and from the Hornbills, Toucans, 
Woodpeckers, and that varied assemblage known as picarian birds. 
On the other hand, the Storks, Hawks, and most of the larger birds, 
have the muscle. But among some of these it is absent ; thus, the 
Owls on the one hand, and the Herons on the other, have no ambiens ; 
but from their general resemblance in other particulars to birds 
which have an ambiens, it was thought by Professor Garrod that 
the loss in them was a recent event, and that they might be fairly 
placed in one great group of birds with an ambiens which he termed, 
somewhat lengthily, the ' homalogonatae,' or normal-kneed birds, 
reserving the name * anomalogonatse,' or abnormal-kneed birds, for 
the passerines, &c., without an ambiens. 

CLASSIFICA TION. 

ONE great advantage of the study of birds is that the amount of 
facts to be learnt in anatomy is far less than with some other 
groups. They are wonderfully uniform in structure. There is less 
difference in structure between an ostrich and a humming-bird than 
between, say, a lizard and a crocodile. Though this may be gratify- 
ing to the student of birds who is content with a broad knowledge of 
anatomical fact, it has its disadvantages very distinct disadvantages 
to those who want to arrange and classify the species. As there 
are computed to be over eleven thousand different kinds of birds, it 
is clear that an arrangement of some kind is wanted ; we must have 
an artificial brain in which to store the characters of each bird in 
their proper place. But before we can consider this it is necessary to 
consider first what place birds as a whole occupy in Nature. It 
used to be thought that warm-blooded birds ought to be put near to 
the warm-blooded mammals. But it is now the general opinion 
that, as we have before pointed out in relation to certain details of 
structure, their proper place is in the neighbourhood of the reptiles. 
In fact they are regarded as a separate division of an order of 
vertebrated animals which has received the name of Sauropsida, 
which signifies * lizard-like ' animals. 

Now, as to these eleven thousand, how are they to be divided ? 
To this simple question innumerable answers have been given it 
is hardly an exaggeration to say as many answers as there are 
ornithologists. Every part of the body has had its turn in affording a 



CLASSIFICATION 85 

base for a classificatory scheme. At first, and with the older genera- 
tion, it was bill and claw ; then came a period of bones ; later the 
muscles were held to be all-important ; at present the fashion is in 
favour of taking all characters into consideration, which is clearly a 
more reasonable way of looking at the matter. The reason for the 
divergences of opinion which implies great difficulty in the subject 
is that birds are so modern a race. They are now at their heyday 
of development. By-and-by, when gaps appear in the now serried 
ranks, classification will be an easier matter ; for classification, after 
all, is an artificial, unnatural sort of thing, if we believe in a gradual 
modification of species out of pre-existing species. It is not too 
much to say that, the more perfect our scheme of classification, the 
greater our ignorance of the group classified. If the only birds 
known to science were a Hornbill, a Duck, and a Crow, together with 
a few of the immediate allies of each, we could easily sort them. 
But there are so many intermediate forms which absolutely decline 
to fit accurately into any system. Then the would-be systematist 
has to distinguish between those characters which imply a deep- 
seated relationship and those which are only due to similar needs. 
The aim of classification is, of course, to indicate real relationship, 
not merely to pigeon-hole in a convenient way. Heal relationship 
is often masked by superficial differences. For instance, the 
common blindworm of our hedgerows is not, as might be thought, 
a snake, but a lizard ; it appears to be unlike the lizard in having no 
legs, and to be so far a snake. Indeed, the terror inspired by this 
peaceful reptile must stand it in good stead with any except human 
foes. But its whole anatomy is built upon the lizard, and not upon 
the snake, plan. We disregard, therefore, in a scheme of classifica- 
tion the likeness to a snake, remembering that in Nature, as in 
morals, appearances are apt to be deceptive. The owls, among 
birds, are believed by many to offer an instance of the same kind of 
deception. By all the older systematists, and by many of the more 
modern, they are placed with the hawks in one group. No doubt 
the owls bear a certain likeness to the hawks. They have formid- 
able claws and a hooked and powerful beak ; they kill their prey ; 
and only differ superficially in that they love the darkness, while the 
hawks hunt by day. Now, in certain details of anatomy, particularly 
in the windpipe and the muscles, the owls are much more like that 
division of birds which includes the goatsuckers. The mention of 
this latter family brings us face to face with another difficulty. If 
the superficial likeness of the owls to the hawks is to be distrusted, 



86 BRITISH BIRDS 

as merely due to a similar mode of life, and therefore to the develop- 
ment of certain structures which are in direct relation to that mode 
of life, how about the superficial likeness of the owls to the goat- 
suckers, which is almost as well marked as to the hawks? In 
Australia and other parts of the East there are two genera of goat- 
suckers which have received the names of Podargus and Batracho- 
stomus. These birds are wonderfully like owls. They have the 
same brown-and-grey and soft plumage ; their flight is equally noise- 
less and, altogether, anyone who saw the living Cuvier's Podargus 
recently on view at the Zoological Gardens might well be pardoned 
for thinking it an owl. The fact is that we must be careful not to 
be prejudiced in any direction. Superficial similarities may or may 
not go with real likeness. Speaking generally, one should be disposed 
to lay greatest stress upon characters which have no obvious relation 
to mode of life as likely to be of the most use in indicating blood 
relationship. It is easier, however, to lay down general principles 
of this kind than to apply them to birds. As has been already 
mentioned, birds aro so uniform in anatomy that in such characters 
as brain, lungs, and other internal organs which are not so directly 
under the immediate influence of their surroundings, there is but 
little difference. Such characters afford no help to the systematist. 
We are obliged, therefore, to rely upon other and really less 
important points. 

In most books upon ornithology in this one, for instance the 
scheme of classification is set forth in the shape of a list beginning 
with one particular group and ending with another. This is merely 
due to the physical properties of sheets of paper. A linear scheme 
is really an impossibility ; to represent classification properly we 
want a solid diagram, showing how from a root-stock branches 
arose and pushed their way in every direction. Another defect of 
the linear scheme is that we must begin somewhere and end some- 
where. In this book we begin with the Passeres and end with the 
Parrots ; others start with the Accipitres, in spite of the protest of 
Michelet against placing the cowardly, flat-headed, stupid hawks at 
the summit of bird creation. It doesn't matter where we begin or 
where we end as long as we carefully bear in mind that a linear 
classification is only a convenient way of briefly stating certain 
facts, and that it does not pretend to be a copy of Nature. An 
alternative method of expressing the facts of structure in space of 
two dimensions is the Stammbaum, originally made in Germany ; 
but this inevitable tree of life is open to the serious objection of 



CLASSIFICATION 87 

undue dogmatism ; and besides, it must be inaccurate, as it is not in 
three dimensions. A given naturalist may have strong reasons for 
believing, let us say, that the Struthious birds represent the lowest bird 
stock, from which arose in a regular series of branches, indepen- 
dently, and alternately from one side or the other, the various groups 
into which we divide the class in the present book ; if so, then the 
Stammbaum is easily constructed. But the general consensus of 
opinion is that the inter-relationships of the different groups cannot 
be expressed with so much simplicity. It is clear that, in any case, 
the most modified offshoots must occupy the highest branches of 
the tree, and that we may in a linear scheme conveniently begin or 
end with them. But it is impossible to arbitrate as to which group 
is the most specialised. It is, on the whole, agreed that the Ostrich 
tribe have retained more primitive characters than other birds ; but 
is the elaborate voice-mechanism of the Nightingale, or the almost 
human intelligence of the Haven or Parrot, to rank first as evidence 
of high position, i.e. specialisation, remoteness from the original 
stock ? This is a matter about which everybody can legitimately 
have an opinion ; and we cannot at present formulate a creed for 
those, that is to say, who are acquainted with the facts. 

The scheme that I adopt here is the same as that which Mr. 
Hudson uses in the pages which follow ; it is the plan followed in 
the B.O.U. list, and approved by most ornithologists in this country 
as a convenient working outline. I have added to it the fossil 
groups, and those groups which do not occur in Great Britain. The 
main scheme is that of Dr. Gadow, used in his valuable account of 
the anatomy of birds in Bronn's ' Klassen und Ordnungen des 
Thierreichs.' There is no deep-seated and mysterious reason for 
my placing Parrots at the end of the Aves Carinatae : it is simply 
sheer inability to place them anywhere in particular. 

CLASS. AVES. 

SUB-CLASS I. Archaeornithes (contains genus Archseopteryx only). 
SUB-CLASS II. Neornithes. 

Division i. Neornithes Batitse. 

Order i. Katitse (contains Struthio, Ehea, Dinornis, &c.). 
Order ii. Stereornithes (contains a few fossil genera, Gast- 

ornis, Dasornis, &c.). 
Division ii. Neornithes Odontolc. 

Order i. Hesperornithes (the extinct Hesperornis and 
Enaliornis). 



88 BRITISH BIRDS 

Division iii. Neornithes Carinatse. 

Order i. Ichthyornithes (fossil Ichthyornis only). 

Order ii. Passeres (thrushes, swallows, flycatchers, tits, &c.). 

Order iii. Picarise (rollers, cuckoos, hornbills, woodpeckers, 

swifts, colies, trogons, goatsuckers, kingfishers). 
Order iv. Striges (owls). 

Order v. Accipitres (hawks, eagles, American vultures, &c.). 
Order vi. Steganopodes (cormorants, pelicans, solan geese, 

frigate bird). 

Order vii. Herodiones (herons, storks, ibis, spoonbills). 
Order viii. Odontoglossi (flamingoes). 
Order ix. Anseres (screamers, ducks, geese). 
Order x. Columbaa (doves). 
Order xi. Pterocletes (sand-grouse). 
Order xii. Gallinse (curassows, megapodes, pheasants, grouse, 

Opisthocomus, &c.). 
Order xiii. Tinamidae (tinamous). 
Order xiv. Fulicariss (rails, coots). 
Order xv. Alectorides (cranes, bustards, Cariama, &c.). 
Order xvi. Limicolae (plovers, snipe, knots, &c.). 
Order xvii. Gavise (gulls, skuas). 
Order xviii. Pygopodes (auks, divers, grebes). 
Order xix. Sphenisciformes (penguins). 
Order xx. Tubinares (petrels, albatross). 
Order xxi. Psittaci (parrots). 

It will be noticed that, out of these twenty-one groups into 
which we may divide the Neornithes Carinatae of Gadow, only three 
are not represented in Great Britain, viz. the Sphenisciformes, 
Psittaci, and Tinamiformes. So that the student of bird anatomy in 
this country has plenty of chance of making himself acquainted 
with the main outlines of structure of the entire class of living 
birds. Out of the thirty-two minor divisions of these birds, no 
fewer than twenty-one are to be met with in these islands ; and of 
those that are not, some are quite easy to get hold of a parrot, for 
instance. 



Missel-Thrush, or Stormcock. 

Turdus viscivorus- 

UPPER parts ash -brown; under parts white, faintly tinged with 
yellow, marked with numerous black spots; under wing-coverts 
white; three lateral tail feathers tipped with greyish white. 
Length, eleven inches. 

There are six British thrushes. Of these the missel-thrush and 
blackbird are residents throughout the year ; the song-thrush is also 
found with us at all seasons, and is a winter songster, but many 
birds migrate; the ring-ouzel is a summer visitor; the red-wing 
and fieldfare are winter visitors. 

The missel or mistletoe thrush, or stormcock, is the largest, 
exceeding the fieldfare, which comes next in s'ze, by at least an 
inch in length and two inches in spread of wings. This species 
possesses in a marked degree all the characters that everywhere 
distinguish the true thrushes, which are world- wide in their rang<3. 
Theirs is a modest colouring : olive-brown above, paler and spotted 
below ; a loud and varied song, and harsh cry ; a statuesque figure ; 
rapid, startled movements on the ground, with motionless intervals, 
when the bird stands with head and beak much raised, in an atti- 
tude denoting intense attention ; and, finally, a free, strong, undu- 
lating flight. 

The missel-thrush inhabits almost the whole of the British 
Islands, and is most abundant in Ireland. " Throughout England 
and Wales he is fairly common, less common hi Scotland, and 
becoming rarer the farther north we go. He is found in all woods 
and plantations, but is most partial to wooded parks, orchards, and 
gardens, which afford him food and shelter throughout the year. 



40 BRITISH BIRDS 

He is the hardiest of our vocalists, and is better known as a winter 
than a summer songster. His song may be heard in the autumn, 
but from midwinter until spring his music is most noteworthy. 
Its loudness and wild character give it a wonderful impressiveness 
at that season of the year. He is not of the winter singers that 
wait for a gleam of spring-like sunshine to inspirit them, but is 
loudest in wet and rough weather ; and it is this habit and some- 
thing in the wild and defiant character of the song, heard above the 
tumult of nature, which have won for him the proud name of storm- 
cock. 

This thrush is an early breeder, and pairs about the beginning 
of February. The birds, after mating, are exceedingly pugnacious, 
and attack all others, large or small, that approach the chosen 
nesting-site. The nest is not often made in evergreens, to which 
blackbirds and song-thrushes are so partial ; as a rule, a deciduous 
tree oak, elm, or beech is made choice of, and the nest may be 
at any height, from a few feet above the ground to the highest 
part of a tall tree ; and as it is built so early in the year, when 
trees are leafless, it forms a most conspicuous object. Furthermore, 
the missel-thrush, a shy and wary bird at other times, becomes 
strangely trustful, and even careless, when nesting, and often 
builds in the neighbourhood of a house, or in an isolated tree 
at the roadside. When building and breeding the birds are silent, 
except when the nest is threatened with an attack, when they 
become clamorous and bold beyond most species in defence of their 
eggs or nestlings. 

The nest is large and well made, outwardly of dry grass, 
moss, and other materials, woven together ; it is plastered with 
mud inside, and thickly lined with fine dry grass. The four eggs 
vary in ground-colour from bluish white to pale reddish brown, and 
are spotted, blotched, and clouded, with various shades of purple, 
brown, and greyish under-markings. Two or three broods are 
reared in the season. 

At the end of June the missel-thrushes begin to unite in small 
parties numbering a dozen to twenty birds, and to range over the 
open country, seeking their food in the pastures and turnip-fields, 
and on moors and commons. Where the birds are abundant much 
larger congregations are seen. In Ireland I have seen them in 
August in flocks of about a hundred birds. They do not keep close 
together, as is the manner of starlings and finches, but fly widely 
scattered, and alight at a distance apart, a flock of fifty to a hundred 



MISSEL-THRUSH 



41 



birds sometimes occupying half an acre or more ground. They then 
look very large and conspicuous, scattered over the green grass, 
standing erect and motionless, or hopping about in their wild, 
startled manner. These flocks diminish in number as the season 
progresses, and finally break up about midwinter. 

In autumn the missel-thrushes devour the yew-berries, and the 
fruit of the rowan and service trees ; later in the year they feed on 
the glutinous berries of the mistletoe, on haws and ivy-berries, and 
other wild fruits ; but their food for the most part consists of earth- 
worms, snails, grubs, and insects of all kinds. 

Throstle, or Song-Thrush. 

Turdus musicus. 




Fia. 18. SONG-THRUSH. 

Upper parts olive-brown , throat white in the middle ; sides of 
neck and under parts ochreous yellow spotted with dark brown ; 
under wing-coverts pale orange -yellow. Length, nine inches. 

The protest and recommendation implied by the use of the first 
name at the head of this article may be futile ; but it is impossible 



42 BRITISH BIRDS 

not to feel and to express regret that so good and distinctive and 
old a name for this familiar bird should have been replaced 
by a name which is none of these things. Song- thrush is an un- 
suitable name, for the very good reason that we have several 
thrushes, all of them songsters. By most persons the bird is 
simply called ' thrush,' which is neither better nor worse than ' song- 
thrush.' 

The throstle is one of the smaller members of the genus, being 
about a third less in size than the noble stormcock. In form, 
colouring, motions, language, and habits, he is a very thrush. It 
cannot be said that his music is the best that, for instance, it is 
finer than that of the blackbird. The two songs differ hi character ; 
both are good of their kind, neither perfect. The throstle is, 
nevertheless, in the very first rank of British melodists, and it is 
often said of him that he comes next to the nightingale. The 
same thing has been said of other species, tastes differing in this 
as in other matters. It is worth remarking that most persons 
would agree in regarding the nightingale, song-thrush, blackbird, 
blackcap, and skylark, as our five finest songsters, and that these 
all differ so widely from each other in the character of their 
strains that no comparison between them is possible, and there is 
no rivalry. 

The only species which may be called the rival of the song- 
thrush is the missel- thrush, as their music has a strong resemblance. 
That of the stormcock has a wonderful charm in the early days of 
the year, when it is a jubilant cry, a herald's song and prophecy, 
sounding amidst wintry gloom and tempest. Heard in calm and 
genial weather in spring, the throstle is by far the finer songster. 
His chief merit is his infinite variety. His loudest notes maybe 
heard half a mile away on a still morning ; his lowest sounds are 
scarcely audible at a distance of twenty yards. His purest sounds, 
which are very pure and bright, are contrasted with various squeal- 
ing and squeaking noises that seem not to come from the same 
bird. Listening to him, you never know what to expect, for his 
notes are delivered in no settled order, as in some species. He has 
many notes and phrases, but has never made of them one completed 
melody. They are snatches and portions of a melody, and he sings 
in a scrappy way a note or two, a phrase or two, then a pause, as 
if the singer paused to try and think of something to follow ; but 
when it comes it has no connection with what has gone before. 
His treasures are many, but they exist jumbled together, and ho 



SONG-THBUSH 43 

takes them as they come. As a rule, when he has produced a 
beautiful note, he will repeat it twice or thrice ; on this account 
Browning has called him a ' wise bird,' because he can 

recapture 
The first fine careless raptura 

There is not in this song the faintest trace of plaintiveness, and 
of that heart-touching quality of tenderness which gives so great a 
charm to some of the warblers. It is pre-eminently cheerful ; a 
song of summer and love and happiness of so contagious a spirit 
that to listen to it critically, as one would listen to the polished 
phrases of the nightingale, would be impossible. 

The throstle is a very persistent singer : in spring and summer 
his loud carols may be heard from a tree-top at four o'clock or half- 
past three in the morning ; throughout the day he sings at intervals, 
and again, more continuously, in the evening, when he keeps up an 
intermittent flow of melody until dark. His evening music always 
seems his best, but the effect is probably due to the comparative 
silence and the witching aspect of nature at that hour, when the sky 
is still luminous, and the earth beneath the dusky green foliage lies 
in deepest shadow. 

So far only the music of the throstle has been considered ; but 
in the case of this bird the music is nearly everything. When we 
think of the throstle, we have the small sober-coloured figure that 
skulks in the evergreens, and its life-habits, less in our minds than 
the overmastering musical sounds with which he fills the green 
places of the earth from early spring until the great silence of July 
and August falls on nature. 

The song-thrush is a common species in suitable localities 
throughout the British Islands, being rarest in the north of Scotland. 
He is found in this country all the year round, but it was discovered 
many years ago, by Professor Newton, that a very limited number 
of birds remain to winter with us. Probably they migrate by night, 
as the fieldfare and redwing are known to do, and, being much less 
gregarious than those birds, come and go without exciting attention. 
The fact remains that, where they are abundant in summer, a tune 
comes in autumn when they mysteriously vanish. One or two 
individuals may remain where twenty or thirty existed previously ; 
and if they only shifted their quarters, as the missel-thrushes do in 
some parts of the country, they would be found in considerable 
numbers during the winter in some districts. But the disappearance 



44 



BRITISH BIRDS 



is general. I am inclined to think that this thrush migration is not 
so general as Professor Newton believes, and that the birds that 
leave our shores are mainly those that breed in the northern parts 
of the country. During the exceptionally severe winter of 1894-5 
the thrushes that remained with us suffered more than most species, 
and in the following spring I found that the song-thrush had become 
rare throughout the southern half of England. 

Nesting begins in March, the site selected being the centre of a 
hedge, or a thick holly or other evergreen bush, or a mass of ivy 






\ rs- 









Pro. 19. THROSTLE'S NEST. 

against a wall or tree. The nest is built of dry grass, small twigs, 
and moss, and plastered inside with mud, or clay, or cow-dung, and 
lined with rotten wood. This is a strange material for a nest to be 
lined with, and is not used by any other bird ; the fragments of 
rotten wood are wetted when used, and, being pressed smoothly 
down, form a cork-like lining, very hard when dry. Four or five 
eggs are laid, pale greenish blue in ground-colour, thickly marked 
with small deep brown spots, almost black. Two, and sometimes 
three, broods are reared in the season. 



SONG-THBUSH 45 

During the day, when not singing, the thrush is a silent bird ; 
in the evening he becomes noisy, and chirps and chatters and screams 
excitedly before settling to roost. 

Insects of all kinds, earthworms, and slugs and snails, are eaten 
by the song- thrush. The snail- shells are broken by being struck 
vigorously against a stone ; and as the same stone is often used for 
the purpose, quantities of newly broken shells are sometimes found 
scattered round it. He is a great hunter after earthworms, and it 
would appear from his actions that the sense of hearing rather than 
that of sight is relied on to discover the worm. For the worm, 
however near the surface, is still under it, and usually a close bed 
of grass covers the ground ; yet you will see a thrush hopping about 
a lawn stand motionless for two or three seconds, then hop rapidly 
to a spot half a yard away, and instantly plunge his beak into the 
earth and draw out a worm. The supposition is that he has heard 
it moving in the earth. He is also a fruit and berry eater, both wild 
and cultivated. 

Redwing. 
Turdus iliacus. 

Upper parts olive-brown ; a broad white streak above the eye 
under parts white, with numerous oblong, dusky spots ; under 
wing-coverts and flanks orange-red. Length, eight and a half 
inches. 

In size and general appearance the redwing resembles the song- 
thrush. Like the fieldfare, he is a whiter visitor from northern 
Europe, arriving a little earlier on the east coast, and differing from 
his fellow-migrants in being less hardy. He is more of an insect- 
eater, and is incapable of thriving on berries and seeds ; hence in very 
severe seasons he is the greater sufferer, and sometimes perishes in 
considerable numbers when, in the same localities, the fieldfare is 
not sensibly affected. Nor is he of so vagrant a habit as the larger 
thrush : year after year he returns to the same place to spend the 
whiter months, feeding in the same meadows, and roosting in the 
same plantations, until the return of spring calls him to the north. 
He is partial to cultivated districts where there are woods and grass- 
lands, and passes the daylight hours in meadows and moist grounds 
near water, returning regularly in the evening to the roosting- 
trees. 



46 BRITISH BIRDS 

At all seasons the redwing is gregarious, and in its summer haunta 
many birds are found nesting in close proximity. A good deal of 
interest attaches to the subject of its song, which Linnseus thought 
1 delightful,' and comparable to that of the nightingale an opinion 
ridiculed by Professor Newton in his edition of Yarrell. Eichard 
Jefferies, who found the redwing breeding and heard its summer 
song in England, describes its strain as ' sweet and loud far louder 
than the old, familiar notes of the thrush. The note rang out clear 
and high, and somehow sounded strangely unfamiliar among Eng- 
lish meadows and English oaks.' * 



Fieldfare. 
Turdus pilaris. 

Head, nape, and lower part of the back dark ash-grey ; upper 
part of the back and wing-coverts chestnut-brown ; a white line 
above the eye ; chin and throat yellow streaked with black ; breast 
reddish brown spotted with black ; belly, flanks, and lower tail- 
coverts white, the last two spotted with greyish brown ; under wing- 
coverts white. Length, ten inches. 

In size and colouring, more especially in the spotted under parts, 
the fieldfare comes near enough to the missel-thrush to be sometimes 
confounded with it. Thus, flocks of missel-thrushes seen in autumn 
are sometimes mistaken for fieldfares that have come at an excep- 
tionally early date to warn the inhabitants of these islands that the 
winter will be a severe one. The fieldfare is slightly less in size 
than the missel-thrush, and has a more variegated plumage, and 
when seen close at hand is a handsome bird. 

He is one of the latest whiter visitors to arrive, seldom appearing 
before the end of October. The return migration takes place at the 
end of April, or later ; flocks of fieldfares have been known to 
remain in this country to the end of May, and even to the first week 
in June. Like the redwing, he is gregarious all the year round ; in 
his summer home hi the Norwegian forests he exists in communi- 
ties, and the nests are built near each other. The migration is 
usually performed by night, and the harsh cries of the travellers 
may be heard in the dark sky, on the east coasts of England and 

' Wild Life in a Southern County. 



FIELDFAEE 47 

Scotland, at the end of October, and in Npvember. From the time 
of their arrival until they leave us they are seen in flocks of twenty 
or thirty to several hundreds of individuals. They do not, like the 
redwings, attach themselves to certain localities, but wander inces- 
santly from place to place, ranging over the entire area of Great 
Britain and Ireland. Owing to this vagrancy, the fieldfare is an 
extremely familiar bird to the countryman, and invariably its first 
appearance, and harsh yet joyous clamour, as of jays screaming 
and magpies chattering in concert, call up a sudden image of winter 
cold, brief days and a snow- whitened earth, and memories of that 
early period in life when the great seasonal changes impress the 
mind so deeply. 

In open weather the fieldfares seek their food in meadows and 
pastures, also in the fields. Unlike the missel-thrushes, that move 
about in all directions over the ground, the fieldfares when feeding 
all move in the same direction. In like manner, when the flock 
repairs to a tree, the birds on their perches are all seen facing one 
way a very pretty spectacle. When their feeding-grounds are 
frozen, or covered with snow, they go to the hedges and devour 
the hips and haws, and any other wild fruit that remains un- 
gathered ; if severe weather continues, they take their departure to 
more southern lands. Their flight is strong, easy, and slightly un- 
dulating, and before settling to feed the flock often wheels gracefully 
about over the field for some time. 

The song of the fieldfare, described by Seebohm as a ' wild 
desultory warble,' uttered on the wing, is not known to us in this 
country it is a song of summer and of love ; but in genial 
weather, when the birds are faring well, they often burst out into a 
concert of agreeable sounds just after alighting hi a tree. 

In the evening when settling to roost they are extremely noisy 
like most thrushes, and their cries may be heard until dark. 

Blackbird. 

Turdus merula. 

Black; bill and orbits of the eyes orange-yellow. Female: 
sooty brown. Length, ten inches. 

Among the feathered inhabitants of these islands there is scarcely 
a more familiar figure than that of the blackbird. Not only is he 



48 



BRITISH BIRDS 



very generally diffused, and abundant in all suitable localities, but 
he is attached to human habitations a bird of the garden, lawn, and 
shrubberies. His music is much to us, his beautiful mellow voice 
being unique in character in this country. But, more than his voice, 
his love of gardens and their produce, and whatever else serves to 




FIG. 20. BLACKBIRD'S NEST. 

make him better known than most birds, is his blackness. Excepting 
the crows, he is the only British bird in the passerine order with a 
wholly black plumage ; and his bright yellow bill increases the 
effect of the blackness, and, like a golden crown, gives him a strange 



THE BLACKBIRD 49 

beauty. Like his companion of the garden and shrubbery, the throstle, 
he is a skulker, and on the least alarm takes shelter under the thickest 
evergreen within reach. When disturbed from his hiding-place he 
rushes out impetuously with a great noise, making the place re- 
sound with his loud, clear, ringing and musical chuckle. But he is 
not so inveterate a skulker and in love with the shade as the 
other. You will sometimes find him on hillsides and open moors, 
or nesting in the scanty tufts of sea-campion on rocky islands where 
he has for only neighbour the rock-pipit. But above all situations 
he prefers the garden and well-planted ground, and in such places 
is most abundant. His food is the same as that of the throstle, 
and is taken in much the same way : he listens for the earthworms 
working near the surface of the ground, and hammers the snails 
against a stone to break the shells. In the fruit season he is very 
troublesome to the gardener, and greedily devours strawberries, 
cherries, currants, gooseberries and mulberries. 

The song of the male begins early in spring, and is mostly heard 
during the early and late hours of the day. Its charm consists in 
the peculiar soft, rich, melodious quality of the sound, and the placid, 
leisurely manner in which it is delivered. But the manner varies 
greatly. ' He sings in a quiet, leisurely way, as a great master should,' 
n-ays Richard Jefferies ; unfortunately, the great master too often 
ends his performance unworthily with an unmusical note, or he 
collapses ignominiously at the close. John Burroughs, the American 
writer on birds, thus describes it : 'It was the most leisurely strain 
I heard. Amid the loud, vivacious, work-a-day chorus it had an 
easeful dolcefar niente effect. . . It constantly seemed to me as if 
the bird was a learner, and had not yet mastered his art. The tone 
is fine, but the execution is laboured ; the musician does not handle 
his instrument with deftness and confidence.' Perhaps it may be 
gaid that, of all the most famed bird-songs, that of the blackbird is 
she least perfect and the most delightful. 

The blackbird places his nest in the centre of a hedge or in an 
evergreen ; it is formed of herbs, roots, and coarse grass, plastered 
inside with mud, and lined with fine dry grass. Four to six eggs 
are laid, light greenish blue in ground-colour, mottled with pale 
brown. Two or three, and sometimes as many as four, broods are 
reared in the season. 

In the northern and more exposed parts of the country the 
blackbird has a partial migration, or shifts his quarters to more 
sheltered localities in the winter. 



60 BRITISH BIRDS 

Ring-Ouzel. 

Turdus torquatus. 




FIG. 21. BINQ-OUZEL. natural size. 

Black, the feathers edged with greyish white ; a large crescent- 
shaped, pure white spot on the throat. Length, eleven inches. 
Female: plumage greyer; the white mark narrower and less 
pure. 

The ring-ouzel is sometimes called the ' mountain blackbird,' on 
account of his likeness to the common species. He is more a ground 
bird and less skulking in habit than the garden blackbird, but in 
appearance and motions strongly resembles him. On alighting he 
throws up and fans his tail in the same way, and is very clamorous 
when going to roost in the evening. His manner of feeding is much 
the same : hopping along the ground, frequently pausing to look up, 
and anon plunging his beak into the soil to draw out a grub or 
earthworm. He breaks the snail-shells in the same way, and is 
equally fond of fruits and berries, both wild and cultivated. 



RINQ-OUZEL 51 

The ring-ouzel is a summer visitor to this country, arriving about 
the beginning of April, and spends the summer months and breeds 
In the higher, least-frequented parts of Dartmoor, in Devonshire, and 
the hilly part of Derbyshire, and many localities in the north of 
England. He is also found in various localities in Wales, Scotland, 
and Ireland. On their arrival the birds are seen for a short period 
in flocks, sometimes of considerable size, frequenting wet and marshy 
grounds. As soon as pairing takes place the flocks break up, and 
the birds distribute themselves over the mountains and high uplands. 
The song of the male is heard after the birds have paired and made 
choice of a breeding-site. It is a powerful song, delightful to listen 
to, partly for its own wild, glad character, but more on account of 
the savage beauty and solitariness of the nature amidst which it is 
usually heard. The nest is placed upon or close to the ground, 
beneath or in a tuft of heather ; and occasionally is built in a low 
bush or tree. Outwardly it is made of coarse grass or twigs of 
heather, plastered inside with mud or clay, and lined with fine dry 
grass. The four or five eggs ar bluish green, blotched with reddish 
brown. 

Seebohm has the following spirited description of the ring-ouzel's 
action in the presence of danger to its nest : ' Approach their treasure, 
and, although you have no knowledge of its whereabouts, you 
speedily know that you are on sacred ground. . . . Something sweeps 
suddenly round your head, probably brushing your face. You look 
round, and there the ring-ouzel, perched close at hand, is eyeing 
you wrathfully, and ready to do battle, despite the odds, for the pro- 
tection of her abode. Move, and the attack is resumed, this time 
with loud and dissonant cries that wake the solitudes of the barren 
moor around. Undauntedly the birds fly around you, pause for a 
moment on some mass of rock, or reel and tumble on the ground 
to decoy you away. As you approach still closer the anxiety of the 
female, if possible, increases ; her cries, with those of her mate, 
disturb the birds around ; the red grouse, startled, skims over the 
shoulder of the hill to find solitude ; the moor-pipit chirps anxiously 
by ; and the gay little stonechat flits uneasily from bush to bush. 
So long as you tarry near their treasure the birds will accompany 
you, and, by using every artifice, endeavour to allure or draw you 
away from its vicinity. 1 

Besides the six species described, there are three thrushes to be 
found in works on British birds : the black-throated thrush (Turdua 



52 



BRITISH BIRDS 



atrigularis), a straggler from Central Siberia ; White's thrush (T. 
varius), from North-east Siberia ; and the rock-thrush (Monticola 
saxatilis), from South Europe, a member of a group that connects 
the true thrushes (Turdus) with the wheatears (Saxicola). 



Wheatear. 
Saxicola cenanthe. 




FIG. 22. WHEATEAR. natural size. 

Upper parts bluish grey ; wings and wing- coverts, centre and 
extremity of the tail, feet, bill, and area comprising the nostrils, 
eyes, and ears, black ; base and lower portion of the side of the 
tail pure white ; chin, forehead, stripe over the eye, and under 
parts, white. In autumn, upper parts reddish brown and tail 
feathers tipped with white. Female : upper parts ash -brown tinged 
with yellow ; stripe over the eye dingy. Length, six and a half 
inches. 

To those who are attracted to solitary, desert places, who find 
in wildness a charm superior to all others, the wheatear, conspicu- 
ous in black and white and bluish grey plumage, is a familiar 



WHEATEAIt 68 

figure a pretty little wild friend ; for he, too, prefers the unculti- 
vated wastes, the vast downs, the mountain slopes, and the stony 
barren uplands. He is one of the earliest, if not the first, of the 
summer migrants to arrive on our shores. They appear early in 
March, sometimes at the end of February, on the south and east 
coasts, after crossing the Channel by night or during the early hours 
of the morning. They come in ' rushes,' at intervals of two or three 
days. In the morning they are seen in thousands ; but after a few 
hours' rest these travellers hurry on to their distant breeding-grounds, 
and perhaps for a day or two scarcely a bird will be visible ; then 
another multitude appears, and so on, until the entire vast army has 
distributed itself far and wide over the British area, from the Sussex 
and Dorset coasts to the extreme North of Scotland and the Hebrides, 
the Orkneys, and Shetlands. The return migration begins early in 
August, and lasts until the middle of September. During this period 
the downs on the Sussex coast form a great camping-ground of the 
wheatears, and they are then taken in snares by the shepherds for 
the markets. Most of the birds taken are young ; they are exces- 
sively fat, and are esteemed a great delicacy. The wheatear harvest 
has, however, now dwindled down to something very small compared 
with former times ; it astonishes us to read in Pennant that a 
century and a quarter ago eighteen hundred dozens of these birds 
were annually taken in the neighbourhood of Eastbourne alone. 
The great decrease in the number of wheatears is no doubt due to 
the reclamation of waste lands, where this bird finds the conditions 
suited to it. To a variety of climates it is able to adapt itself : the 
vast area it inhabits includes almost the whole continent of Europe, 
from the hot south to the furthermost north ; and westwards its 
range extends to Iceland, Greenland, and Labrador. But cultivation 
it cannot tolerate : when the plough comes the wheatear vanishes. 
Fortunately, there must always be waste and desert places the 
scattered areas on mountain- sides, barren moors and downs, and 
rocky coasts, that cannot be made productive. In such spots the 
wheatear is an unfailing summer companion, and at once attracts 
attention by his appearance and motions. He is fond of perching 
on a rock, stone wall, or other elevation, but seldom alights on 
bushes and trees. He runs rapidly and freely on the ground, and, 
pausing at intervals and standing erect, moves his tail deliberately 
up and down. He flies readily, his rump and tail flashing white as 
he rises ; and after going but a short distance, flying close to the 
ground, he alights again, and jerks and fans his tail two or three 



64 BRITISH BIED8 

times. He feeds on grubs, small beetles, and other insects picked 
up from the ground, but also pursues and catches flying insects. 
He has a short, sharp call-note that sounds like two pieces of stone 
struck smartly together ; hence the name of ' stone-clatter,' by 
which he is known in some localities. His short and simple song 
would attract little attention in groves and gardens ; it is charming 
on account of the barren, silent situations it is heard in. It gives life 
to the solitude, and is a love-song, accompanied by pretty gestures 
and motions, and is frequently uttered as the bird hovers in the air. 

The wheatear breeds in a cavity under a stone, or in a hole or 
crevice in a stone wall ; also in cairns and in the cavities in peat- 
stacks, and occasionally in a disused rabbit-burrow or under a clod 
of earth. The nest is made of dry grass, loosely put together and 
slightly lined with some soft material moss and rootlets, rabbits' 
fur, horsehair, or wool, or feathers. From four to seven eggs are 
laid, pale greenish blue in colour, in some cases faintly marked with 
purplish specks at the large end. 

The wheatear, owing to its wide distribution in this country, 
is known by a variety of local names in different districts ; of these 
may be mentioned fallowchat, whitetail, stone-cracker, chack-bird, 
and clod-hopper. 

Two other species of the genus Saxicola have been included in 
the list of British birds. These are the black-throated wheatear 
(Saxicola strapazina), of which a single specimen has been 
obtained, and the desert wheatear (Saxicola deserti),oi which two 
or three specimens have been shot. 

Whinchat. 
Pratincola rubetra. 

Upper parts dusky brown edged with reddish yellow; broad 
white stripe over the eye ; throat and sides of neck white ; neck 
and breast bright yellowish red ; a large white spot on the wings and 
base of the tail ; tip of the tail and the two middle feathers dusky 
brown ; belly and flanks yellowish white. Female : colours duller ; 
white spot on the wing smaller. Length, five inches and a 
quarter. 

Of the three British species forming this group of two genera 



WHINCHAT 55 

(Saxicolaand Pratincola) the fallowchat, stonechat, and whinchat 
the last -named is the least striking, whether in appearance or habits. 
His modest plumage has neither brightness nor strongly contrasted 
colours ; and although he is a frequenter of furze-grown commons, 
and named on this account furzechat, or whinchat, he is not, like the 
stonechat, restricted to them. He inhabits both wild and cultivated 
grounds, rough commons and waste lands, mountain- sides, and 
meadows and grass fields divided by hedgerows. He roosts, 
breeds, and obtains most of his food on the ground ; but he loves to 
perch on bushes and low trees, and in most open situations where 
these grow the whinchat may be met with. On his arrival in April 
he feeds very much on the fallows, but later, in May, forsakes 
them for the neighbouring grass fields, where he makes his nest. He 
is commonly seen perched on the summit of a bush, low tree, or 
hedgerow, and, like the stonechat, he makes frequent short excursions 
in pursuit of flying insects. When approached he grows restless on 
his perch, fans his tail at intervals, and frequently utters his low 
call or alarm note; then flies away, to perch again at a short 
distance from the intruder, and flies and perches again, and finally 
doubles back and returns to the first t*pot. Besides the insects he 
catches flying, he feeds on small beetles, grubs, worms, &c., found 
about the roots of the grass. He is frequently seen fluttering 
close to the surface of the tall grass, picking small insects from the 
leaves, and is most active in seeking his food during the evening 
twilight. 

The whinchat's low warbling song, which has some resemblance 
to that of the redstart, is mostly heard in the love season, and 
is uttered both from its perch on the summit of a bush or tree, 
and when hovering hi the ah-. 

The nest is placed on the ground, usually in a cavity under the 
grass hi a field, not far from a hedgerow, or under a thick furze- 
bush on commons, or at the roots of the heather on moors. It is 
formed of dry grass and moss, and lined with horsehair and root- 
lets. Four to six eggs are laid, greenish blue in colour, faintly 
marked with a zone of brown spots at the larger end. 



BRITISH BIBD3 



Stonechat. 

Pratincola rubicola. 




Head, throat, bill, and 
legs black ; sides of neck 
near the wing, tertial 
whig- coverts, and rump 
white ; breast bright 
chestnut -red, paling to 
white on the belly; fea- 
thers of the back, wings, 
and tail black with red- 
dish brown edges. Fe- 
male : head and upper 
parts dusky brown, the 
feathers edged with yel- 
lowish red ; throat black 
with small whitish and 
reddish spots ; less white 
in the wings and tail ; 
the red of the breast dull. Length, five and a quarter inches. 






FIG. 23. STONECHAT. 1 natural size. 



In his colouring and appearance, and to some extent hi habits, 
the small stonechat is unlike any other bird. His strongly con- 
trasted tints black and white, and brown and chestnut-red make 
him as conspicuous to the eye as the goldfinch or yellowhammer, and 
thus produce much the same effect as brilliancy of colour. The 
effect is increased by the custom the bird has of always perching on 
the topmost spray of a furze-bush on the open commons which it 
inhabits. Perched thus conspicuously on the summit, he sits erect 
and motionless, a small feathered harlequin, or like a painted 
image of a bird. But his disposition is a restless one in a few 
moments he drops to the ground to pick up some small insect he has 
spied, or else dashes into the air after a passing fly or gnat, and 
then returns to his stand, or flits to another bush some yards away, 
where he reappears on its top, sitting erect and motionless as 
before. He is always anxious in the presence of a human being, 
flying restlessly from bush to bush, incessantly uttering his low, 
complaining note, which has a sound like that produced by striking 



STONE CHAT 



67 



two pebbles together ; hence his name of stonechat. But it is a 
somewhat misleading name. He is not, like the wheatear, an 
inhabitant of barren stony places, but is seen chiefly on commons 
abounding in furze-bushes and thorns and brambles. He is seen 
in pairs, but is nowhere a numerous species, although found in 
most suitable localities throughout the three kingdoms. He is also 
to be met with throughout the year, but is much rarer in winter 
than in summer ; and probably a great many individuals leave the 
country in autumn, while others seek more sheltered situations to 
winter in, or have a partial migration. 

The stonechat has a slight, but sweet and very pleasing, song, 
uttered both when perched and when hovering in the air. Towards 
the end of March the nest is made, and is placed on or close to the 
ground, under a thick furze-bush ; it is large, and carelessly made of 
dry grass, moss, heath and fibrous roots, lined with fine grass, horse- 
hair, feathers, and sometimes with wool. Five or six eggs are laid, 
pale green or greenish blue in colour, and speckled at the large end 
with dull reddish brown. When che nest is approached the birds 
display the keenest distress. 

Redstart 
Ruticilla phcenicurus. 




Forehead white ; 
head and upper part 
of back bluish grey; 
throat black; breast, 
tail- co verts, and tail, 
except the two middle 
feathers, which are 
brown, bright bay. 
Female: upper parts 
grey deeply tinged 
with red; throat and 
belly whitish ; breast, 
flanks, and under tail- 
coverts pale red. 
Length, five and a 
quarter inches. 



Fio. 24. REDSTART. natural size. 



58 BRITISH BIRDS 

The redstart is found from April to the end of August throughout 
England and Wales, but is nowhere common; in Scotland and 
Ireland he is rare. He is, nevertheless, a better-known bird to 
people hi the country districts than some of the migratory songsters 
which are more abundant. Not, however, on account of his song, 
which is inferior to most, but partly because he ' affects neighbour- 
hoods,' as Gilbert White says, and partly on account of his pure and 
prettily contrasted colours the white forehead, slaty grey upper 
parts, and chestnut rump and tail. The bright- coloured taiL, 
which he flirts often as he flits before you, quickly attracts the eye. 
1 Firetail ' is a common name for this bird. Bedstart is Saxon for 
redtail. When seen perched upright and motionless he resembles 
the robin hi figure, but does not seek his food so much on the 
ground, and hi his restless disposition and quick, lively motions, 
he is like the warblers. A peculiarity of the redstart is his fondness 
for old walls ; he is attracted by them to orchards and gardens, 
where he is most often seen, although always a shy bird hi the 
presence of man. 

Seebohm says : ' As the wheatear is the tenant of the cairns, the 
rocks, and the ruins of the wilds, in like manner the redstart may 
be designated a bird of the ruins and the rocks in the lower, warmer, 
and more cultivated districts. You will find it hi orchards and 
gardens, about old walls, and in the more open woods and shrub- 
beries. Another favourite haunt of the redstart is old crumbling 
ruins, abbeys, and castles, on whose battlements an4 still massive 
walls, ivy-covered and moss-grown, it delights to sit and chant its 
short and monotonous song.' 

The song consists of one short phrase, dropping to a low twitter 
at the end, which varies in different singers ; but the opening note 
is always a beautiful expressive sound. 

The redstart feeds on small beetles, caterpillars, spiders, and 
grubs, which it picks up in walls, trees, and bushes ; and on gnats, 
flies, and butterflies, captured on the wing after the manner of the 
flycatcher. 

The nest is almost always made hi a hole, usually in an old 
stone wall, but occasionally in a hole in a tree, and sometimes in the 
cleft formed by two branches. It is loosely built with dry grass 
and moss, and lined with hair and feathers. The eggs are four to 
six in number ; sometimes as many as eight, or even ten, are laid. 
They resemble the hedge-sparrow's eggs, being of a uniform greenish 
blue colour. 



REDSTART 



59 



The black redstart (Ruticilla titys) is a winter visitor in small 
numbers to the south-west of England, and has been known to 
breed on two or three occasions in this country. It is common 
throughout Central and Southern Europe, wintering in North Africa, 
and in its nesting and othar habits and language resembles the red- 
start. 

Between the redstarts (Kuticilla) and the redbreast (Erithacus), 
next to be described, the bluethroats (Cyanecula) are placed, of 
which two species have been recorded as casual visitors to this 
country the white-spotted bluethroat (C. Wolfi), from Western 
Europe ; and the red-spotted bluethroat (C. Suecica), a breeder in 
the arctic regions. 

Redbreast. 
Erithacus rubecula. 



/ 




FIG. 25. REDBREAST. \ natural size. 

Upper parts olive-brown; forehead and breast red, the red 
edged with grey ; belly white. Female : a trifle smaller than the 
male, and less bright in colour. Length, five inches and three- 
quarters. 

Of man's feathered favourites the species he has thought proper 
to distinguish by a kindly protective sentiment the redbreast pro- 
bably ranks first, both on account of the degree of the feeling and 



60 BRITISH BIRDS 

its universality. The trustfulness of the familiar robin, especially 
in seasons of snow and frost, in coming about and entering our 
houses in quest of crumbs, is the principal cause of such a sentiment ; 
but the highly attractive qualities of the bird have doubtless added 
strength to it. The bright red of his breast, intensified by contrast 
with the dark olive of the upper parts, gives him a rare beauty and 
distinction among our small songsters, which are mostly sober- 
coloured. Even more than beauty in colouring and form is a sweet 
voice ; and here, where good singers are not few, the robin is among 
the best. Not only is he a fine singer, but in the almost voiceless 
autumn season, and hi winter, when the other melodists that have 
not left our shores are silent, the robin still warbles his gushing, 
careless strain, varying his notes at every repetition, fresh and glad 
and brilliant as in the springtime. His song, indeed, never seems 
so sweet and impressive as in the silent and dreary season. For one 
thing, the absence of other bird-voices causes the robin's to be more 
attentively listened to and better appreciated than at other times, 
just as we appreciate the nightingale best when he ' sings darkling ' 
when there are no other strains to distract the attention. There 
is also the power of contrast the bright, ringing lyric, a fountain of 
life and gladness, in the midst of a nature that suggests mournful 
analogies autumnal decay and wintry death. There cannot be a 
doubt that the robin gives us all more pleasure with his music than 
any other singing-bird ; we hear him all the year round and all our 
lives long, and his voice never palls on us. But those who have 
always heard it, for whom this sound has many endearing associa- 
tions, might have some doubts about its intrinsic merits as a song 
they might think that they esteem it chiefly because of the associa- 
tions it has for them. In such a case one is glad to have an inde- 
pendent opinion that, for instance, of an * intelligent foreigner,' 
who has never heard this bird in his own country. Such an opinion 
we may find in John Burroughs, the American writer on birds ; and 
it may well reassure those who love the robin's song, but fear to 
put their favourite bird in the same category with the nightingale, 
blackcap, and garden-warbler. He writes : * The English robin is 
a better songster than I expected to find him. The poets and writers 
have not done him justice. He is of the royal line of the nightin- 
gale, and inherits some of the qualities of that famous bird. His 
favourite hour for singing is the gloaming, and I used to hear him 
the last of all. His song is peculiar, jerky, and spasmodic, but 
abounds in the purest and most piercing tones to be heard piercing 



REDBREAST 61 

from their smoothness, intensity, and fulness of articulation ; rapid 
and crowded at one moment, as if some barrier had suddenly given 
way, then as suddenly pausing, and scintillating at intervals bright, 
tapering shafts of sound. It stops and hesitates, and blurts out its 
notes like a stammerer ; but when they do come, they are marvel- 
lously clear and pure. I have heard green hickory-branches thrown 
into a fierce blaze jet out the same fine, intense, musical sounds on 
the escape of the imprisoned vapours in the hard wood as charac- 
terise the robin's song.' 

The robin is an early breeder, and makes its nest beneath a 
hedge, or in a bank, or in a close bush not far above the ground ; it is 
formed of dry grass, leaves, and moss, and lined with feathers. Six 
or seven eggs are laid, reddish white in ground-colour, clouded or 
blotched, and freckled with pale red. When the nest is approached 
the old birds express their anxiety by a very curious sound a 
prolonged note so acute that, like the shrill note of some insects 
and the bat's cry, it is inaudible to some persons. Two, and even 
three, broods are raised in the season. 

At the end of summer the old birds disappear from their usual 
haunts to moult ; and during this perhaps painful, and certainly 
dangerous, period, they remain secluded and unseen in the thickest 
foliage. When they reappear in new and brighter dress, restored 
to health and vigour, a fresh trial awaits them. The young they 
have hatched and fed and protected have now attained to maturity, 
and are in possession of their home. For it is the case that every 
pair of robins has a pretty well-defined area of ground which they 
regard as their own, jealously excluding from it other individuals of 
their own species. The young are forthwith driven out, often not 
without much fighting, which may last for many days, and in which 
the old bird is sometimes the loser. But in most cases the old 
robin reconquers his territory, and the young male, or males, if not 
killed, go otherwhere. And here we come upon an obscure point 
in the history of this familiar species; for what becomes of the 
young dispossessed birds is not yet known. It has been conjectured 
that they migrate, and that not many return from their wanderings 
beyond the sea. And it is not impossible to believe that the 
migratory instinct may exist in the young of a species, although 
obsolete at a later period of life. 



62 



BEITISH BIED8 



Nightingale. 

Daulias luscinia. 

Dpper plu- 
mage uniform 
brown tinged 
with chestnut; 
tail rufous ; 
under parts 
greyish white ; 
flanks pale ash. 
Length, six 
niches and a 
quarter. 

The nightin- 
gale is the only 
songster that 
has been too 
much lauded, 
with the inevit- 
able result that 
its melody, 

when first heard, causes disappointment, and even incredulity. 
More than once it has been my lot to call the attention of someone 
who had not previously heard it to its song, at the same time 
pointing out the bird ; and after a few moments of listening, he or 
she has exclaimed, 'That the nightingale 1 "Why, it is only a 
common-looking little bird, and its song, that so much fuss is 
made about, is after all no better than that of any other little bird.' 
And then it is perhaps added : ' I don't think the nightingale if 
the bird you have shown me is the nightingale sings so well as 
the thrush, or the blackbird, or the lark.' The song is, neverthe- 
less, exceedingly beautiful ; its phrasing is more perfect than that of 
any other British melodist ; and the voice has a combined strength, 
purity, and brilliance probably without a parallel. On account of 
these qualities, and of the fact that the song is frequently heard 
in the night-time, when other voices are silent, the nightingale 




Fio. 26. NIGHTINGALE. natural size. 



NIGHTINGALE 68 

was anciently selected as the highest example of a perfect singer ; 
and, on the principle that to him that hath shall be given, it was 
credited with all the best qualities of all the other singers. It was 
the maker of ravishing music, and a type, just as the pelican was a 
type of parental affection and self-sacrifice, and the turtle-dove of 
conjugal fidelity. 1 Only, when he actually hears it for the first 
time, the hearer makes the sad discovery that the bird he has for 
long years been listening to in fancy the nightingale heard by 
the poet with an aching heart, and the wish that he, too, could 
fade with it into the forest dim was a nightingale of the brain, a 
mythical bird, like the footless bird of paradise and the swan with 
a dying melody. Beautiful, nay, perfect, the song may be, but he 
misses from it that something of human feeling which makes the 
imperfect songs so enchanting the overflowing gladness of the 
lark ; the spirit of wildness of the blackcap ; the airy, delicate 
tenderness of the willow- wren ; and the serene happiness of the 
blackbird. 

The nightingale arrives in this country about the middle of 
April, returning to the same localities year after year, apparently in 
the same numbers. It is scarcely to be doubted that the young 
birds that survive the perils of migration come back to the spot 
where they were hatched, since the species does not extend its range 
nor establish new colonies. It is most common in the southern 
counties of England, above all in Surrey, but rare in the western 
and northern counties, and in Scotland and Ireland it is unknown. 

The nightingale so nearly resembles the robin in size, form, and 
manner that he might be taken for that bird but for his clear, brown 
colour. Like the robin, he feeds on the ground, seeking grubs and 
insects under the dead leaves, hopping rapidly by fits and starts, 
standing erect and motionless at intervals as if to listen, and 
occasionally throwing up his tail and lowering his head and wings, 
just as the robin does. He inhabits woods, coppices, rough bramble- 
grown commons, and unkept hedges, and loves best of all a thicket 
growing by the side of running water. 

Two or three days after arriving he begins to sing, and continues 
in song until the middle, or a little past the middle, of June, when 
the young are hatched. In fine weather he sings at intervals 
throughout the day, but his music is more continuous and has a 
more beautiful effect in the evening. For an hour or two after 
sunset it is perhaps most perfect. In the dark he is silent, but if 
the moon shines he will continue singing for hours. That is to say, 



64 BRITISH BIRDS 

some birds will continue singing ; as a rule, not half so many as may 
be heard during daylight. 

The nest is nearly always placed on the ground beneath a hedge 
or close thicket ; it is rather large, and composed of dry grass and 
dead leaves loosely put together, the inside lined with fine dead 
grass, rootlets, and vegetable down. The eggs are four or five in 
number, and of a uniform olive-brown colour. 

During incubation and after the young are hatched the parent 
birds display the most intense solicitude when the nest is approached, 
and flit from bough to bough close to the intruder's head, incessantly 
repeating two strangely different notesone low, clear, and sorrow- 
ful, the other a harsh, grinding sound. 

The return migration is in August and September. 

Whitethroat. 
Sylvia cinerea. 








FIG. 27. WHITETHKOAT. natural size. 

Head ash-grey tinged with brown ; rest of upper parts reddish 
brown ; wings dusky, the coverts edged with red ; lower parts white 
faintly tinged with rose colour ; tail dark brown, the outer feathers 
white on the tips and the outer web, the next only tipped with 
white. Female without the rosy tint on the breast. Length, five 
and a half inches. 



WHITETHBOAT 65 

The whitethroat, or greater whitethroat, as the name is some- 
times written, is one of the commonest and best known of the soft- 
billed songsters that spend the summer and breed hi our country. 
It inhabits all parts of the British Islands, excepting the most 
barren. Even to those who pay little attention to the small birds 
that come in their way the whitethroat is tolerably familiar, less on 
account of its song, which is in no way remarkable, than for the 
excited notes and actions of the bird, sometimes highly eccentric, 
which challenge attention. The whitethroat is, moreover, reaolily 
distinguishable from its colour the reddish brown hue of its upper 
plumage and the unmistakable white throat, which give it a con- 
spicuous individuality among the warblers. It inhabits the wood- 
side, the thickets, the rough common, but of all places prefers the 
ihick hedge for a home. Shortly after the bird's arrival, about the 
middle or near the end of April, he quickly makes his presence 
known to any person who walks along a hedgeside. The intruder 
is received with a startled, grating note, a sound expressive of 
surprise and displeasure, and, repeating this sound from tune to 
time, the bird flits on before him, concealed from sight by the 
dense tangle he moves amidst. Presently, if not too much alarmed, 
he mounts to a twig on the summit of the hedge to pour out his 
song a torrent of notes, uttered apparently in great excitement, with 
crest raised, the throat puffed out, and many odd gestures and 
motions. Sometimes he springs from his perch as if lifted by sheer 
rapture into the air, and ascends, singing, in a spiral, then drops 
swiftly back to his perch again. It is a peculiar song on account of 
its vehement style and the antics of the singer, more so when he 
flies on before a person walking, now singing, now moving farther 
ahead in a succession of wild jerks, then suddenly ducking down 
into the hedge. It is also a pleasing song in itself, although for 
pure melody the whitethroat does not rank very high among the 
greatly gifted birds of its family, or sub -family. If we include the 
nightingale and robin, it should be placed about the sixth on the 
list, the other singers that come before it being the willow- wren, 
blackcap, and garden warbler. 

The nest of the whitethroat is a round, flimsy structure, formed 
of slender stalks of grass and herbs, and lined with horsehair, and is 
placed two or three feet above the ground, in the brambles and 
briers of the hedge, or in a large furze-bush. The five eggs are of 
a greenish white, speckled with olive, and sometimes blotched and 
marked with grey and light brown. One brood only is reared. 



66 BRITISH BIRDS 

Nettle-creeper is a common name for this bird, on account of its love 
of weeds, especially of nettles, no doubt because the small cater- 
pillars it feeds on are most abundant on them. It is also fond of 
fruit, wild and cultivated, and visits the gardens near its haunts to 
feed on currants and raspberries. 

Lesser Whitethroat. 
Sylvia curruca. 

Head, neck, and back smoke-grey ; ear coverts almost black ; 
wings brown edged with grey ; tail dusky, outer feather as in the 
last species, the two next tipped with white ; lower parts nearly pure 
white ; feet lead colour. Length, five and a quarter inches. 

The difference in size between this warbler and the one last 
described is very slight ; still, there is a difference ; and the descrip- 
tive epithet of lesser would also be a suitable one if applied h? 
another sense. He is a less important bird. To begin with, he i 
much rarer, being only of local distribution in England and Scot- 
land, and unknown in Ireland ; in colouring he is more obscure ; 
his trivial song has nothing in it to attract attention ; he is shyer 
in habits, passes much of the tune among the higher foliage of 
the trees he frequents, and is, consequently, not often seen. 

He arrives in this country about or shortly after the middle 01 
April, and is found in thickets and copses, and hedges in the neigh- 
bourhood of trees. Like most of the warblers, he is exceedingly 
restless, and moves incessantly among the leaves, picking up the 
aphides and minute caterpillars, and from time to time darts into 
the air to capture some small passing insect. Like the common 
whitethroat, he is also fond of ripe fruit, especially currants and 
raspberries. He is often on the wing, passing directly from 
place to place with an undulating flight and rapidly-beating wings. 
"When singing he swells his throat out, and delivers his strain with 
considerable vigour ; but his song is of the shortest, and is com- 
posed of one or two notes, hurriedly repeated two or three times 
without variation, and with scarcely any musical quality in it. No 
sooner is it finished than the bird is off again on his flitting rambles 
among the leaves and twigs ; it is less like a song than an excla- 
mation of pleasure a cheerful call that bursts out from time to tune. 

The lesser whitethroat nests in orchards, coppices, thick hedge* 



LESSER WHITETHROAT 



67 



rows, bramble and furze bushes on commons, and among tangled 
vegetation overhanging streams, but in all cases the nest is placed 
in the midst of a dense mass of foliage. This is a somewhat loosely 
made and shallow structure, composed of dry grass-stems and small 
twigs, bound together with cobwebs and cocoons, and lined with fine 
rootlets and horsehair. Four or five eggs are laid, in ground-colour 
white or dull buff, blotched and speckled with greenish brown, with 
underlying markings of purplish grey. 



Blackcap. 

Sylvia atricapilla. 

Head above the 
eyes jet - black, in 
the female chocolate- 
brown; upper parts, 
wings, and tail ash- 
grey slightly tinged 
with olive ; throat and 
breast ash-grey ; belly 
and under wing- cov- 
erts white. Length, 
five and a half inches. 

This brilliant song- 
ster arrives in this 
country about the 
middle of April, in 
some years consider- 
ably earlier. It is 
found throughout 
England and Wales, 
and extends its range 
to Scotland and Ire- 
land, only in lesser numbers. Though widely distributed it is rare, 
except in some districts in the southern and western counties of 
England. A person familiar with the ornithological literature of 
this country, but having little personal knowledge of the birds, who 
should go out to make acquaintance with the blackcap, would be 
surprised at its rarity. After much seeking, he would probably come 




FIG. 28. BLACKCAP. ^ natural size. 



68 BRITISH BIRDS 

to the conclusion that, speaking of warblers only, there are at least 
half a hundred willow-wrens, and perhaps twenty whitethroats, to 
one blackcap. Another curious point about the blackcap is that it 
appears to be almost unknown to the country people. It is a rare 
thing to find a rustic, man or boy, who knows it by that or any other 
name, though he may be quite familiar with the redstart and 
whitethroat. On these last two points I find that my experience 
coincides with that of John Burroughs, the American writer on bird 
life, in the accounts of his observations on British song-birds. 
There is a third point on which I also agree with him ; this, how- 
ever, is not a question of fact, but of opinion or of individual taste, 
and refers to the merit of the blackcap as a singer. His is a song 
which has always been very highly esteemed, and it has often been 
described as scarcely inferior to that of the nightingale. Gilbert 
"White of Selborne described it as * a full, deep, sweet, loud, wild 
pipe ; yet that strain is of short continuance, and his motions are 
desultory ; but when that bird sits calmly and engages in song in 
earnest, he pours forth very sweet, but inward, melody, and expresses 
great variety of soft and gentle modulations, superior, perhaps, to 
those of any of our warblers, the nightingale excepted.' After 
reading such a description it is a disappointment to hear the 
song. Nevertheless, it is very beautiful, and given out with im- 
mense energy, as the bird sits on a spray with throat puffed out, 
and moves its head, sometimes its whole body, vigorously from side 
to side. The song is a clear warble composed of about a dozen 
notes, rapidly enunciated, loud, free, of that sweet, pure quality 
characteristic of the melody of our best warblers. The strain is 
short, and repeated from time to time, the intervals often being filled 
by lower notes, sweet and varied the * inward melody' which 
White describes. Burroughs's description of the song is as follows : 
"While sitting here I saw, and for the first time heard, the black- 
capped warbler. I recognised the note at once by its brightness 
and strength, and a faint suggestion in it of the nightingale's ; but it 
was disappointing : I had expected in it a nearer approach to its 
great rival. ... It is a ringing, animated strain, but as a whole 
seemed to me crude, not smoothly and finely modulated. I could 
name several of our own birds that surpass it in pure music. Like 
its congeners, the garden warbler and the whitethroat, it sings with 
great emphasis and strength, but its song is silvern, not golden.' 
This account of the blackcap's song is interesting as coming from 
a foreigner who has paid great attention to the bird music of his 



BLACKCAP 6S 

own country, and it is on the whole a very good description ; but 
I should not say that the blackcap's strain is crude, however wild and 
irregular it may be ; nor that there is in it even a faint suggestion 
of the nightingale's. 

In its active, restless habits this warbler resembles the other 
members of its group ; but it exceeds them all in shyness. 
When approached it becomes silent, and conceals itself hi the 
interior of the thicket. It frequents woods and orchards ; also 
hedges and commons where large masses of furze and bramble are 
found, especially in the vicinity of trees. The nest is made of 
dry grass, lined with hair or fibrous roots, and is placed hi the forked 
branches of a thick bush, three or four feet above the ground. The 
eggs, of which five or six are laid, are of a light reddish colour, 
mottled and 'blotched with darker red and reddish brown. Theji 
vary greatly, both in the depth of colour of the mottlings and hi the 
pale ground-tints. 

The blackcap lives on insects, which it often captures on the 
whig, and on fruits, and is fond of raspberries and currants. Its 
autumn migration is in September. 

Garden Warbler. 
Sylvia horlensis. 

Upper plumage greyish brown tinged with olive ; below the ear 
a patch of ash-grey ; throat dull white ; breast and flanks grey 
tinged with rust colour ; rest of under parts dull white. Length, 
five and a quarter inches. 

This warbler was first described as a British species by 
Willughby, more than two centuries ago, under the name of ' pretti- 
chaps ' ; and Professor Newton, in a note to YarrelTs account of it, 
says : ' This name (prettichaps) seems never to have been hi general 
use in England, or it would be readily adopted here.' The old 
name of prettichaps, it may be mentioned, does not appear to be 
quite obsolete yet: I have heard it in Berkshire, where it was 
applied indiscriminately to the garden warbler and blackcap. 

The garden warbler is not common anywhere. In Ireland it is 
scarcely known ; in Scotland, Wales, and a large part of England 
it is very rare. It is most frequently to be met with in the southern 
counties, especially in Hampshire. Very curiously, Gilbert White 



70 BRITISH BIRDS 

did not know this warbler, which may now be heard singing any 
day in spring in the neighbourhood of Selborne village. 

The garden warbler is often said to rank next to the blackcap as 
a melodist. The songs of these two species have a great resem- 
blance ; it is, indeed, rare to find two songsters, however closely 
allied, so much alike in their language. The garden warbler's song 
is like an imitation of the blackcap's, but is not so powerful and 
brilliant : some of its notes possess the same bright, pure, musical 
quality, but they are hurriedly delivered, shorter, more broken 
up, as it were. On the other hand, to compensate for its inferior 
character, there is more of it ; the bird, sitting concealed among the 
clustering leaves, will sing by the hour, his rapid, warbled strain 
sometimes lasting for several minutes without a break. 

The garden warbler is a late bird, seldom arriving in this 
country before the end of April. It builds a rather slight nest, in a 
bush near the ground, of dry grass and moss, lined with hair and 
fibrous roots. The eggs are five in number, and are dull white, 
sometimes greenish white, blotched and speckled with dull brown 
and grey. 

The food of this warbler consists of small insects ; and it is also 
fond of fruit and berries. 

Six species of the genus Sylvia are included in books on British 
birds: the four already described, the orphean warbler (Sylvia 
orphea), an accidental visitor from Central and Southern Europe, 
and the barred warbler (Sylvia nisoria), from Central, South, and 
East Europe. 

Furze- Wren, or Dartford Warbler. 
Melizophilus undatus. 

Upper parts greyish black ; wing-coverts and feathers blackish 
brown ; outer tail feathers broadly, and the rest narrowly, tipped 
with light brownish grey ; under parts chestnut-brown ; belly white. 
Tail long ; wings very short. Length, five inches. 

The furze- wren, never a common species in this country, is now 
become so scarce, and is, moreover, so elusive, that it is hard to 
find, and harder still to observe narrowly. Its somewhat singular 
appearance among the warblersits small size, short, rounded 



FUKZE-WREN 



71 



wings, great length of tail, and very dark colour its peculiar song, 
and excessively lively and restless habits, and the fact that it was 




FIG. 29. DARTFORD WARBLER. natural size. 

first discovered in this country (1773), where, though so small and 
delicate a creature, it exists on open, exposed commons throughout 
the year, have all contributed to make it a fascinating subject to 
British ornithologists. In England it inhabits Surrey and the 
counties bordering on the Channel ; but it has also been found in 
suitable localities in various other parts of the country, and ranges 
as far north as the borders of Yorkshire. I have sought for it in 
many places, but found it only in Dorset. Forty or fifty years ago 
it was most abundant in the southern parts of Surrey ; it was there 
observed by the late Edward Newman, who gave the following 
lively and amusing account of its appearance and habits in his 
4 Letters of Eusticus on the Natural History of Godalming ' (1849) : 
' We have a bird common here which, I fancy, is almost unknown 
in other districts, for I have scarcely ever seen it in collections. . . . 
I mean the furze- wren, or, as authors are pleased to call it, the 
Dartford warbler. We hear that the epithet of Dartford is derived 
from the little Kentish town of that name, and that it was given to 
the furze-wren because he was first noticed in that neighbourhood. 
... If you have ever watched a common wren (a kitty- wren we 
call her), you must have observed that she cocked her tail bolt up- 



72 BRITISH BIRDS 

right, strained her little beak at right angles, and her throat in the 
same fashion, to make the most of her fizgig of a song, and kept 
on jumping and jerking and frisking about, for all the world as 
though she was worked by steam ; well, that's more the character 
of the Dartford warbler, or, as we call her, the furze- wren. "When 
the leaves are off the trees and the chill winter winds have driven 
the birds to the olive-gardens of Spam, or across the Straits, the 
furze- wren is in the height of his enjoyment. I have seen them by 
dozens skipping about the furze, lighting for a moment on the very 
point of the sprigs, and instantly diving out of sight again, singing 
out their angry, impatient ditty, for ever the same. Perched on the 
back of a good tall nag, and riding quietly along the outside, while 
the foxhounds have been drawing the furze-fields, I have often 
seen these birds come to the top of the furze. . . . They prefer 
those places where the furze is very thick, and difficult to get in. ... 
And although it is so numerous in winter, and so active and nois;y 
when disturbed by dogs and guns, still, in the breeding season it is 
a shy, skulking bird, hiding itself in thick places, much in the 
manner of the grasshopper lark, and seldom allowing one to hear 
the sound of its voice.' 

Spring is, however, the season of the furze-wren's greatest ac- 
tivity : its lively gestures, antics, and dancing motions on the topmost 
sprays of the bushes are then almost incessant, as it pursues the 
small moths and other winged insects on which it feeds ; and its 
curious and impetuous little song is then delivered with the greatest 
vigour. It has also a harsh, scolding note, uttered several times in 
rapid succession, and a loud musical call-note. 

The nest is placed among the dense masses of the lower, dead 
portion of a thick furze-bush. It is a flimsy structure, composed of 
dead furze-leaves, small twigs, and grass-stems, lined with finer 
stems, and sometimes with horsehair. Four or five eggs are laid, 
white in ground-colour, sometimes tinged with buff or with greenish, 
thickly spotted and freckled with pale brown over paler brown and 
grey markings. Two broods are reared in the season. 

Golden-crested Wren, or Goldcrest. 
Regulus cristatus. 

Upper parts olive tinged with yellow ; cheeks ash-colour ; wing 
greyish brown, with two transverse white bands ; crest bright yellow 



GOLDEN-CRESTED WEEN 78 

In front, orange behind, bounded by two black lines ;. under parts 
yellowish grey. Female : colours not so bright ; crest lemon-colour. 
Length, three and a half inches. 

The golden-crested wren has the distinction of being the smallest 
British bird ; it is also one of the most widely distributed, being 
found throughout the United Kingdom. Furthermore, it is a resi- 
dent throughout the year, is nowhere scarce, and in many places 
is very abundant. Yet it is well known only to those who are 
close observers of bird life. The goldcrest is not a familiar figure, 
owing to its smallness and restlessness, which exceed that of all 
the other members of this restless family of birds, and make it diffi- 
cult for the observer to see it well. Again, it is nearly always con- 
cealed from sight by the foliage, and in winter it keeps mostly among 
the evergreens, and at all times haunts by preference pine, fir, and 
yew trees. In the pale light of a whiter day, more especially in 
cloudy weather, it is hard to see the greenish, restless little creature 
in his deep green bush or tree. Standing under, or close to, a wide- 
spreading old yew, half a dozen goldcrests flitting incessantly about 
among the foliage in the gloomy interior of the tree look less like 
what they are than the small flitting shadows of birds. 

In March, and even as early as the latter part of February, the 
male is frequently heard uttering his song ; but he is not of the 
songsters that perch to sing, and pour out their music deliberately 
and with all then: might. The goldcrest's song comes in as a sort 
of trivial distraction or relief a slight interlude between the more 
important acts of passing from one twig or spray to another, and 
snatching up some infinitesimal insect so quickly and deftly that to 
see the action one must watch the bird very closely indeed. And 
the music, of which the musician makes so little, is of very little 
account to the listener. It is the smallest of small songs two notes, 
almost identical in tone, repeated rapidly, without variation, two or 
three times, ending with a slight quaver, scarcely audible, on the 
last note. The sound is sharp and fine, as of young mice squealing, 
but not quite so sharp, and more musical ; it is a sound that does 
not travel : to hear it well one must stand not farther than a dozen 
or fifteen yards from the singer. 

Yarrell has the following passage on the song of the goldcrest : 
1 Pennant says he has observed this bird suspended in the air for a 
considerable time over a bush in flower, while it sang very melodi- 
ously ; but this peculiarity does not appear to have been noticed by 



74 BBITISH BIRDS 

other naturalists.' I have observed the male, in the love season, 
hovering just above the bush, in the topmost foliage of which its 
mate was perched, and partially hidden from view. It is when en. 
gaged in this pretty, aerial performance, or love-dance, that the 
golden-crested wren is at his best. The restless, minute, sober- 
coloured creature, so difficult to see properly at other times, then 
becomes a conspicuous and exceedingly beautiful object ; it hovers 
on rapidly- vibrating wings, the body in almost a vertical position, 
but the head bent sharply down, the eyes being fixed on the bird 
beneath, while the wide-open crest shines in the sun like a crown 
or shield of fiery yellow. When thus hovering it does not sing, but 
emits a series of sharp, excited, chirping sounds. 

The goldcrest builds a pendent nest, made fast to the small twigs 
under a branch of yew or fir, and uses a variety of materials fine 
dry grass, leaves, moss, and webs closely woven together, lining the 
cavity with feathers. It is a very ingenious and pretty structure. 
The eggs laid are from six to ten, of a pale yellowish white, spotted 
and blotched, chiefly at the large end, with reddish brown. 

In the autumn, in the months of October and November, a great 
migratory movement takes place among the goldcrests in the north 
of Europe ; and in some seasons incredible numbers of these small 
travellers arrive, often in an exhausted condition, in Northumberland 
and on the east coast of Scotland. After resting close to the sea for 
a day or two, they resume their journey, and distribute themselves 
over the country. 

The firecrest (Regulus ign-icapillus), which closely resembles 
the species just described, is an accidental visitor from the continent 
of Europe. 

Chiffchaff. 

Phylloscopus rufus. 

Upper plumage olive-green tinged with yellow ; above the eye a 
faint yellowish white streak ; under parts yellowish white ; feathers 
of the leg greyish white. Length, four inches and three-quarters. 

The chiffchaff, although his song is so simple the simplest 
song of all and after a time is apt to become wearisome from in- 
cessant repetition, is, nevertheless, one of the most welcome visitors 
of the early spring ; for this small bird, in spite of its smaUness 



CHIFFCHAFF 75 

and frailty, is the first of the migratory warblers to make its appear- 
ance on our coasts. Shortly after the middle of March, and even 
earlier in some years, the well-remembered, familiar sound, full of 
promise of the beautiful budding season, begins to be heard here 
and there in the more sheltered and sunny spots in woods and 
copses, and by the first week in April it is one of the most familiar 
sounds in the country. It is not, however, so general as the strain 
of the willow- wren, this species being more local in its distribution. 

It is this early appearance of the chiffchaff, coming * before the 
swallow dares,' that endears it to the lover of Nature and of bird life. 
Mr. Warde Fowler, in his * Year with the Birds,' has well expressed 
the feeling which so many have for this small warbler. ' No one,' 
he says, ' who hails the approach of spring as the real beginning of 
a new life for men and plants and animals, can fail to be grateful to 
this little brown bird for putting on it the stamp and sanction of his 
clear, resonant voice. We grow tired of his two notes he never gets 
beyond two for he sings almost the whole summer through ; .-. . 
but not even the first twitter of the swallow, or the earliest song of 
the nightingale, has the same hopeful story to tell me as this delicate 
traveller who dares the east wind and the frost.' 

The two notes, which vary as slightly in tone as two taps of a 
hammer on an anvil delivered with equal force on the same spot, 
are emitted with great vigour and spirit, as if the little creature's 
whole heart was in the performance, and repeated several times 
without a pause. This is the whole song, and, when not engaged 
in uttering it, the singer is incessantly moving about in pursuit of 
smaU insects and their larvae, now searching for them in the small 
twigs and buds, after the manner of the titmice, and at times 
capturing them on the wing. Meanwhile the song is repeated at 
frequent intervals from morning until dark. It is not suspended, 
as in the case of most of the warblers, after the young have been 
hatched, but continues throughout the summer and autumn, when 
it degenerates somewhat in character, the sound losing the little 
musical quality it originally possessed. 

The nest is made in the ground, a hedgebank being the situation 
preferred, and is round and domed, with an opening at the side. 
Dry grass, leaves, and moss are the materials used in its construc- 
tion, the cavity being plentifully lined with feathers. The eggs are 
six, pure white, spotted and speckled with brown and brownish 
purple. 



76 BRITISH BIEDti 

Willow-Wren. 
Phylloscopus trochilus. 

Upper plumage bright olive-green ; a narrow streak of yellow 
over the eye ; under parts yellowish white, palest in the middle ; 
feathers of the legs yellow. Length, nearly five inches. 

The willow- wren, or willow- warbler, is one of the earliest of our 
summer songsters to arrive, usually following the chiffchaff which 
it resembles in size and general appearance by a few days. During 
the last week of March, if the weather be not too cold, its delicate 
strain may be heard in sheltered situations in the southern parts of 
England, and by the second week in April it is-one of the most fre- 
quently heard songs throughout the length and breadth of the land. 
Not only is this species very much more generally diffused than its 
two nearest relations the chiffchaff and wood- wren but it is met 
with in a much greater variety of situations on commons, in 
hedgerows, gardens, woods, and plantations. Yet, in spite of its 
abundance and wide distribution, it is nowhere a familiar bird to 
the country people ; the small, delicate voice does not compel atten- 
tion and is well-nigh lost in the summer concert that has so many 
loud, jubilant strains in it. 

The willow- wren is a pretty little bird, although without any 
bright colour in its plumage, which at a short distance looks of a 
soft greenish yellow tint. He is best seen when the trees are open- 
ing their buds, before the thickening foliage hides his tiny, restless, 
flitting form from sight. He is the least shy of the warblers, his 
trustfulness being in strong contrast to the suspicious manner and 
love of concealment of the blackcap and whitethroat. He will 
unconcernedly continue his hunt for minute insects, and utter his 
melody at intervals, within a few feet of a person, sitting or standing, 
quietly observing him. The song, although a small one, both as to 
duration and power, has a singular charm : not merely the charm 
of association experienced in a voice long absent and heard once 
more a voice of the spring, that comes before the loud call of the 
cuckoo and the familiar, joyous twitter of the swallow ; it is in itself 
a beautiful sound, one of the sweetest bird-songs heard in our 
country. * A song which is unique among British birds,' says Mr. 
Warde Fowler, whose description of it is, perhaps, the most perfect 



WILLOW-WREN 77 

which we have. ' Beginning with a high and tolerably full note, 
he drops it both in force and pitch in a cadence short and sweet, as 
though he were getting exhausted with the effort. . . . This cadence 
is often perfect ; by which I mean that it descends gradually, not, of 
course, on the notes of our musical scale, . . . but through fractions 
of one, or perhaps two, of our tones, and without returning upward 
at the end ; but still more often, and especially, as I fancy, after 
they have been here a few weeks, they take to finishing with a 
note nearly as high in pitch as that with which they began.' 

After this it is interesting to read Mr. J. Burroughs's impressions 
of the willow-wren's song. He writes : * The most melodious 
strain I heard, and the only one that exhibited to the full the 
best qualities of the American songsters, proceeded from a bird 
quite unknown to fame hi the British Islands, at least. I refer to 
the willow- warbler. . . . White says it has a " sweet, plaintive note," 
which is but half the truth. It has a long, tender, delicious warble, 
not wanting in strength and volume, but eminently pure and sweet 
the song of the chaffinch refined and idealised. . . . The song is, 
perhaps, in the minor key, feminine and not masculine, but it 
touches the heart. 

1 That strain again ; it had a dying fall. 

* The song of the willow- warbler has a dying fall ; no other bird- 
song is so touching in this respect. It mounts up round and full, 
then runs down the scale, and expires upon the air hi a gentle 
murmur.' 

The willow-wren breeds early, making a circular domed nest on 
the ground, among the long grass and weeds, under a hedge or 
beneath a bramble bush on a bank, and occasionally at a distance 
from sheltering bushes in the grass of a field. It is made of dry 
grass, and lined with rootlets and horsehair, and, lastly, with 
feathers. The eggs are six or seven in number, pure white, the 
yolk showing through the frail shell, and giving it a faint yellow 
tinge ; they are blotched and spotted with reddish brown. When 
the nest is approached the parent birds display the greatest anxiety, 
hopping and flitting about close to the intruder, and uttering low, 
plaintive notes. 

The willow-wren stays longer with us than any migratory 
warbler except the chiffchaff, and its song is, without exception, the 
most persistent. From the time of its arrival in March, or early in 
April, it sings without ceasing until July ; then for a few weeks its 



78 BRITISH BIRDS 

song is heard only in the early morning, and it ceases at the end ol 
August, during the moult, but is renewed a little later, and is then 
continued until the bird's departure at the end of September. 



Wood-Wren. 

Phylloscopus sibilatrix. 

Upper plumage olive-green tinged with sulphur-yellow ; a broad 
streak of sulphur-yellow over the eye ; sides of head, throat, and 
insertion of the wings and throat bright yellow ; rest of under 
plumage pure white. Length, nearly six inches. 

This warbler arrives in England at the end of April, being later 
by many days than its two nearest relations, the chiffchaff and 
willow- wren. As its name implies, it is a bird of the woods, with a 
preference for such as are composed wholly or in part of oak and 
beech trees. It is not easily discerned, on account of its restless 
disposition ; also because it chiefly frequents the uppermost parts 
of the trees it inhabits. Its instinct appears to be to live and hunt 
for the small insects it preys on among the green leaves at the 
greatest possible height from the earth ; this may account for its 
love of the beech, which is the tallest of our forest trees. But if 
difficult to see as it flits lightly from place to place among the higher 
foliage, it is easy to hear, and its frequently uttered song sounds very 
loud in the woodland silence, and is strangely unlike that of any 
other songster. It may be said to possess two distinct songs : of 
these, the most frequently uttered and unmistakable begins with 
notes clear, sweet, and distinct, but following more and more 
rapidly until they run together in a resonant trill, and finally end 
in a long, tremulous note, somewhat thin and reedy in sound. At 
longer intervals it utters its other song, or call, a loud, clear note, 
slightly modulated, and somewhat plaintive, repeated without varia- 
tion three or four times. 

The wood- wren, although so great a lover of the tall tree-tops, 
oreeds on the ground, like the two species described before it, and, 
like them, builds an oval-shaped domed nest. It is placed among 
the herbage, and is composed of moss, dry leaves, and grasses, lined 
with fine grass and horsehair. Feathers are never used in the 
nest-lining, and in this the wood- wren differs from the two preceding 



WOOD-WEEN Vfc 

species. Six eggs are laid, transparent white, spotted and speckled 
with dark brown, purple and grey. 

The wood-wren differs from most of the warblers in being 
exclusively an insect-eater. 

A fourth member of this genus, the yellow-browed warbler 
(Phylloscopus super ciliosus), which breeds in Northern Siberia, has 
been met with as a rare straggler in this country. 

Two more warblers, belonging to different genera, must be 
mentioned here as stragglers to England : the icterine warbler 
(Hypolaia icterind) and the rufous warbler (Aedon galectodes). 

Reed-Warbler. 

Acrocephalus streperus. 

Upper plumage uniform reddish brown, without spots ; a white 
streak or spot between the eye and bill ; throat white ; under 
plumage very pale buff. Length, five and a half inches. 

The reed- warbler closely resembles the sedge-warbler, next to 
be described, in size, colouring, and general appearance, also in 
language and habits ; but is a much less common species, more 
local in its distribution, and is, consequently, not nearly so well 
known. He arrives in this country about the middle of April, and 
inhabits dense reed-beds in dykes, marshes, and the borders of 
rivers, where he skulks, for the most part out of sight; but his 
loquacity betrays his presence, for he is a persistent singer, especially 
in the early part of the day, and again in the evening. His song 
resembles that of the sedge-warbler in its curious mingling of 
musical and harsh notes, its hurried and somewhat angry scolding 
character, but is less powerful, the harsh notes less harsh and 
vigorous a sweeter but not so interesting a performance. Like the 
nearly allied species, he bursts into singing when excited by fear or 
solicitude for the safety of his nest. He is an exceedingly restless 
little creature, incessantly hopping from stem to stem, now mounting 
to the surface of the reeds, and almost instantly dropping into con- 
cealment again. Even where the birds are many, it is only by patient 
waiting and watching that an occasional glimpse of one can be got. 
His food consists of small insects, caught on the wing and on tho 
leaves and stems of the reeds and aquatic herbage. The nest is a deep, 



80 



BBITISH BIED8 



beautiful structure, suspended on two or three, or more, slender reed- 
stems, or on the twigs of a willow, osier, or other plant growing 
near the water. It is made of long dry grass-leaves woven together, 
with finer grass-leaves and horsehair for a lining. The eggs are 
four or five in number, greenish white in colour, clouded, blotched, 
and freckled with dark olive and ash-grey. 

S edge- Warbler . 

Acrocephalus phragmitis. 

Upper plumage 
greyish brown ; 
above the eye a 
broad, distinct, yel- 
lowish white streak ; 
under plumage pale 
buff; throat white. 
Length, four inches 
and three-quarters. 

The sedge-war- 
bler, usually called 
sedge -bird, and in 
some localities river- 
chat, is a common 
species in most 
waterside places 

where there are reed-beds and willows ; it also frequents rough 
hedges and bramble and furze bushes in the neighbourhood of a 
watercourse. Sometimes, but not often, it is found breeding at a 
considerable distance from a stream. It comes to us in April, and 
is a most active and lively little creature. Although not shy of 
man, it is less easy to observe than any other species in this group, 
except, perhaps, the grasshopper warbler, on account of its excessive 
restlessness, the rapidity of its movements, and its habit of keeping 
near the surface in the close reeds and bushes it lives in. The 
grasshopper warbler, and, indeed, most small birds that inhabit 
bushes, love to come to the surface to sing ; the sedge-warbler sings 
much as he hurries about in search of his food, which consists of 
small caterpillars and slugs, and aquatic insects. Occasionally the 




Fia. 30. SEDGE- WABBLER. natural size. 



SEDGE-WARBLER 81 

restless little yellowish brown figure appears for a moment or two 
near the top of a bush, and then vanishes again. 

The song is curious, and delivered in a curious manner, with 
hurry and vehemence ; and this, as well as the character of the 
sounds emitted, gives the idea that the bird is excited to anger that 
he is scolding at, rather than singing to, the listener. The opening 
note, hurriedly repeated several times, and recurring at short 
intervals as long as the song lasts (its keynote and refrain), 
resembles the chiding note of the whitethroat when its nest is 
approached, but is louder and more strident. It is the loudest sound 
the sedge- warbler emits, and when the song is heard at a distance 
of fifty or sixty yards it seems all composed of chiding notes. But 
on a nearer approach and the bird will allow the listener to get 
quite close to it the performance is found to be a very varied one. 
Listening to it, one finds it hard not to believe that this warbler 
possesses the faculty it has often been credited with, of mocking 
other species. But if he indeed has such a talent, he reproduces 
not so much the songs of other birds as the notes and chirps and 
small cries of anxiety and alarm the various sounds emitted by 
singing-birds in the presence of danger to their young or incubated 
eggs. Thus, in the medley of hurried and strongly contrasted 
sounds that come in a continuous stream from the sedge- warbler 
one seems to recognise the low girding of the nightingale, and the 
different notes of solicitude of the sparrow, reed-bunting, and 
chaffinch, of the wren and the willow- wren, the meadow-pipit and 
pied wagtail. But whether these various sounds are really borrowed 
or not one can never feel sure. 

The sedge-warbler is a very persistent singer. Some birds are 
too chary of their strains ; but of this waterside music any person 
may have as much as he likes in May and June. Singing is ap- 
parently as little tiring to this bird as rushing through the air is to 
the swift. At the season of his greatest vigour he appears to pour 
out his rapid notes almost automatically ; and when silent, a stone 
or stick flung into his haunts will provoke a fresh outburst of melody. 
He also sings a great deal at night in the love season. 

The sedge-warbler makes its nest among the tangled vegetation 
at the waterside ; as a rule it is placed near the ground, and is 
composed outwardly of moss, leaves, and aquatic grasses, and lined 
with fine grass and hair. The eggs are five, of a dirty white or pale 
brownish ground-colour, with yellowish brown spots, sometimes with 
hairlike marks among the spots. 



82 BRITISH BIBDS 

Besides the two described, three more species of this group of 
warblers have been numbered as British birds, having been found 
as stragglers in this country. These are the marsh-warbler (Aero- 
cephalus palustris), the great reed-warbler (Acrocephalua tur- 
doides), and the aquatic warbler (Acrocephalus aquations). 

Grasshopper Warbler. 
Locustella naevia. 

Upper parts light greenish brown ; the middle of each feather, 
being darker, gives a mottled appearance ; under parts very pale 
brown, spotted with darker brown on neck and breast ; feet light 
brown. Length, five and a half inches. Female without the brown 
spots on the breast. 

This warbler arrives in our country about the middle of April, 
sometimes a week, or even a fortnight, earlier. In the melodious 
family to which it belongs it is distinguished by the singularity of 
its voice, which has no musical, or songlike, or even birdlike quality 
in it, but is like the sound produced by some stridulating insects. II 
is to be found in suitable situations throughout England and Wales t 
and hi many parts of Scotland and Ireland. It frequents both dry 
and marshy ground where dense masses of vegetation afford it 
the close cover which would seem necessary to its frail existence ; 
thus it is found in reed-beds growing in the water, and in hedges 
and thorny thickets, and among the furze-bushes on open commons. 
Although thus widely distributed in the British Islands, it is, like 
the nightingale, very local, and reappears faithfully each spring at 
the same spot. How strong the attachment to place, or home, is 
in this species will be seen in the following fact : Having found a 
small colony of about half a dozen grasshopper warblers inhabiting 
a circumscribed spot in the middle of an extensive common, I went 
back to the place in three consecutive summers, and each time found 
the birds in the same bushes. Yet the dozen or twenty furze and 
bramble bushes which they inhabited were in no way, that one 
could see, better suited to their requirements than hundreds of other 
bushes of the same description scattered over the surrounding land. 
Nor were any other individuals of the species to be found in the 
neighbourhood, except one pair, which were always to be met with 
in some brambles about a quarter of a mile from the spot inhabited 
by the other birds. Such a fact appears to show that, not only do 



GRASSHOPPER WARBLER 88 

the old birds return year after year to the same breeding-place, but 
that the young also come back to the spot where they were hatched ; 
also, it appears to show that in this frail and far-travelling species 
the annual increase is only sufficient to make good the losses from 
all natural causes. 

Immediately after their arrival in April the males begin their 
curious vocal performance, at first with a feeble and broken strain ; 
but in a little while the voice gains in strength and shrillness, and 
the utterance becomes more sustained, lasting sometimes without a 
break for thirty or forty seconds, and even longer. This is renewed 
again and again at short intervals throughout the day, and continued 
far into the night. Indeed, the song may be heard all night long 
in fine summer weather. The sound is recognised by few of 
those who hear it as coming from a bird. It is usually attributed 
to an insect, and if the hearer grows curious, and tries to find the 
exact spot from which it issues, he finds this a somewhat difficult task. 
The sound seems now on this side, now on that, now far away, and 
anon close at hand ; it is here, there, and everywhere. A good plan 
is to put the open hands behind the ear, then to turn slowly round 
until the exact spot is discovered. When the bush from which it 
proceeds has been found, the listener should advance cautiously to 
within a few yards of it, and sit down and wait until the hidden 
bird, recovering from his alarm, comes up to the summit and re- 
sumes his singing. It is then most interesting to observe him. The 
bird sits motionless, turning its head from side to side, and so long 
as the strain continues the yellow mouth is wide open, like the 
gaping mouth of a fledgeling waiting to receive food, the slender 
body trembling with the sound, as if an electric current were passing 
through it. The sound produced has been compared by different 
writers to the song of a grasshopper, only more sustained ; to the 
cicada ; to the whirring of a wool-spinner's reel, and to that of a 
well-oiled fisherman's reel made to run at a very rapid rate ; and, 
finally, to the sharp, vibrating sound of the rattlesnake, and to an 
electric bell ; but it is not so sharp as these last two. 

The grasshopper warbler builds on the ground, and so well con- 
cealed is the nest that it is only possible to find it by watching the 
birds when carrying nesting materials into the bush. The nest is 
formed of dry grass and moss, and lined with fine fibres. Five to 
seven eggs are laid, white or pale pink, spotted with reddish brown 
over the entire egg; and sometimes fine hairlike lines are mixed 
with the spots. 



84 BRITISH BIRDS 

A small warbler, closely resembling the grasshopper warbler in 
its language and habits, and once an indigenous British species, is 
Locus tella luscinio'ides, locally known as the reelbird, red night- 
reeler, and red craking night-wren, and in books as Savi's warbler, 
after its discoverer. It bred regularly in the Norfolk Broads and the 
fen districts in Lincolnshire down to about 1849, when it became 
extinct. 

Hedge- Sparrow. 
Accentor modularis. 




Fio. 81. HEDGB-SPARBOW. natural size. 

Crown ash-colour with brown streaks ; side of neck, throat, and 
breast bluish grey ; back and wings reddish brown streaked with dark 
brown ; breast and belly bufly white. Length, five and a half inches. 

Most people know that a sparrow is a hard-billed bird of the 
finch family, and that the subject of this notice is not a sparrow, 
except in name. It is, in fact, a soft-billed bird belonging to that 
large and musical family which includes the nightingale, the red- 
breast, and the warblers. How absurd, then, to go on calling it a 
sparrow 1 ' certain ornithologists have said from time to time, and 
have re-named it the hedge-accentor. But, as Professor Newton 
has said in his addition to YarrelTs account of the bird, a name 
which has been part and parcel of our language for centuries, and 
which Shakespeare used, 'is hardly to be dropped, even at the bidding 
of the wisest, so long as the English tongue lasts.' Now, as the 



SEDGE-SPARROW 86 

English tongue promises to last a long time, it seems safest to retain 
the old and, in one sense, incorrect name. Dunnock is another 
common name for this species ; it is also called shufflewing, from 
the habit the bird has, when perched, of frequently shaking its wings. 

Among our small birds, the hedge-sparrow is regarded with some 
slight degree of that kindly feeling, or favouritism, which is extended 
to the robin redbreast, the swallow, and the martin. It is one of 
the few delicate little birds that brave the rigours of an English 
whiter, and occasionally enliven that dead season with their melody. 
With the wren and missel-thrush, it is a prophet, in February, of 
the return of brighter sunshine and lengthening days ; and in hard 
weather it comes much about the house, for the sake of the small 
morsels of food to be picked up ; and, while retaining its sprightliness 
at such times, it learns to be trustful. It is possible that the feeling 
or sentiment which no person, not even the most matter-of-fact 
scientific ornithologist, is quite proof against, is the cause of this 
species having been a little overpraised in many books about birds. 
The hedge-sparrow is often spoken of as a very charming little 
creature, while its song has been described as pleasing, as sweet, 
and as delightful. All birds are in a sense attractive, and even 
charming in appearance, but in different degrees, and the plain- 
coloured dunnock strikes one as being the least attractive among 
our birds. In the same way, the song may be said to be pleasant 
because it is a natural sound, and is heard in the open air when the 
sun shines, when leaves and blossoms are out, and it expresses the 
gladness which is common to all sentient things. But it has none 
of the rare qualities which are requisite to make a pleasant sound 
anything more than a merely pleasant sound. 

The hedge-sparrow is a common bird throughout the British 
Islands so common as to be familiar to most people, in spite of its 
shyness and love of concealment. It is pre-eminently a hedge-bird, 
and in that respect has been well named; even in the most populous 
districts, and in the suburbs of large towns, where a hedge remains, 
there the smoke-grey and brown little bird will have its home and 
make its nest, although it may seldom be able to rear its young. It 
is a very early breeder, a first brood being often reared in March. 
As a rule, the nest is placed in the centre of a hedge or thorny bush, 
three or four feet from the ground; it is made of dry grass and 
fine roots, and lined with hair ; the eggs are five or six in number, 
bright greenish blue in colour, without spots. Two or three broods 
are reared in the season. 



86 



BRITISH BIRDS 



The alpine accentor (Accentor collaris), a larger species than 
our hedge-sparrow, which it resembles in colour, is known as a 
straggler to England from the mountainous districts of Central and 
Southern Europe. 

Dipper. 
Cinclus aquaticus. 

Upper plu- 
mage brownish 
black tinged with 
grey ; throat and 
breast pure white ; 
belly chestnut- 
brown ; bill black ; 
feet horn- colour. 
Female : colours 
dingy. Length, six 
inches and a half. 

The dipper, or 
water-ouzel, differs 
considerably in ap- 
pearance, and still 
more in habits, 
from all other 
British birds ; as 

is the case with such species as the wryneck, cuckoo, kingfisher, 
bearded tit, tree-creeper, starling, and nuthatch, there is no other like 
him. In figure he is wren -like, stout and compact in body, with short, 
rounded wings and short, square tail, which, as with the wren, is 
often carried upright and jerked. He is a little less than the song- 
thrush in size, and is conspicuously coloured, the greater part of the 
plumage being black, or blackish brown ; and, in strong contrast, the 
throat and upper part of the breast shining white a big black wren 
with a silvery white bib. 

Some species always live and move within such narrow limits, 
or, in other words, are so dependent on certain conditions, that we 
invariably think of them in association with their surroundings : 
the snipe with the boggy soil ; the rock-pipit with the rock-bound 
seashore ; the tree-creeper with the tree he climbs upon ; the lark 
with the cultivated fields ; and the swift with the void blue sky, through 




FIG. 32. DIPPER. natural size. 



DIPPER 87 

which he is perpetually rushing. In like manner we invariably 
think of the dipper in connection with the swift, brawling mountain- 
torrent he inhabits. He is never, or very seldom, found removed 
from it, and is probably more restricted to certain conditions, and 
consequently more bound to his home, than any one of the species 
just named. The stream he attaches himself to must have quiet 
and comparatively deep pools, and the water must be clear to enable 
him to detect the larvss of water-beetles, dragon-flies, and other 
aquatic insects he preys on, all of which have a protective colouring. 
He does not range up and down a stream, like the kingfisher, to 
visit the various feeding-places ; he limits himself to a portion of 
it, in many cases not more than a hundred yards in length, and 
explores the bottoms of the same pools from day to day, until they 
must be as familiar to him all their inequalities, their stony ridges 
and half-buried boulders, and sandy or pebbled places, and all the 
holes and secret corners where sediment collects as the rooms we 
live in are to us, and about which we are able to move freely in the 
dimmest light. In ascending a mountain stream such as these 
birds love, abounding in deep, quiet pools, with noisy cascades and 
shallow rapids, its bottom strewn with great fallen boulders partly 
submerged, the rocky banks overgrown with sheltering bushes and 
vines, when you disturb a dipper he flies up stream a short 
distance, perhaps twenty yards, and alights on a boulder, or in the 
shadow of an overhanging rock, and there waits, silent and motion- 
less, until, disturbed again, he takes a second short flight up stream, 
and so on to the limit of his range, whereupon, rising up and doubl- 
ing back, he flies to the spot he started from. And as often as you 
disturb him he will act in the same way, going just so far, and no 
farther. If you leave him behind and go on, you will find another 
pair of dippers, whose portion of the stream begins just where that 
of the first pair ends. They, too, will act in the same way, and fly 
on until the end of their range is reached, and will not venture 
beyond where a third pair are in possession. Where they are not 
disturbed a mountain stream may be found parcelled out in this 
way among a dozen or twenty couples. Probably the dipper, like 
the robin, jealously resents the intrusion of another bird of his kind 
into his chosen ground. Concerning this habit of the dipper, and 
its strange way of feeding under the water, something still remains to 
be known. It is, indeed, strange that this little perching song-bird 
should have the habit of diving for its food like a grebe or a guille- 
mot, and other species that have structures specially adapted to 



88 BRITISH BIRDS 

such a way of life. For there is absolutely nothing in the dipper's 
structure to lead anyone unacquainted with its habits to believe 
that it ever approaches the water, unless to drink and bathe, and 
perhaps to pick up an insect floating on the surface. That it is able to 
sink into and move freely about beneath the water close to the bottom 
of a stream, in spite of gravity, seems very astonishing, and would 
be incredible if the fact were not so familiar. Some ornithologists 
believe that it is related to the wren, others to the thrush ; that is a 
question capable of solution ; but how by a short-cut it became a 
diver must remain a mystery. 

Formerly it was believed that the dipper was able to walk freely 
about on the bottom of the stream, but that was an error. It is 
difficult to watch the bird moving about under water ; but a few 
good observers have succeeded in doing so, and from their accounts 
it would appear that the dipper propels itself by powerful wing- 
beats, moving by a series of rushes or jerks, keeping close to the 
bottom of the stream. It appears to swallow its food under water, 
but comes up at intervals to breathe, then sinks again beneath the 
surface. 

On land the dipper is somewhat inactive, and will stand on a 
boulder or under an overhanging rock without moving for a long 
time. One would imagine that their eyes, fitted so well to see 
in the dun light beneath the surface, must be very sensitive to the 
glare above. 

The dipper's song is short but brilliant, and very much like that 
of the wren in character ; it is heard most frequently in the love 
season, and occasionally in autumn and in winter, when the sun 
shines, even during very cold weather. 

The nest is made among the rocks, usually in a crevice, and is 
very large for the size of the bird, being sometimes a foot across, 
and is globular in form, with a small opening near the top. It is 
composed principally of moss, loosely felted, the inside lined with 
dry grass, fine rootlets, and dead leaves. Four to six eggs are laid, 
pure white, and unspotted. 

The dipper is most common in mountainous districts in Scotland, 
Ireland, and Wales, and is found in suitable localities in England. 

The black-billed dipper (Cinclua melanog aster), the Scandinavian 
and North Kussian form of Cinclua aquaticus, has been met with 
on two or three occasions as a straggler to the east coast of 
England. 




PLATE IV. 



BEARDED TITMOUSE, f NAT. SIZE. 



BEARDED TITMOUSE 89 

Bearded Titmouse. 
Panurus biamicus. 

Head bluish grey ; between the bill and eye a tuft of pendent 
black feathers, prolonged into a pointed moustache ; throat and neck 
greyish white ; breast and belly white tinged with yellow and pink ; 
upper parts light orange-brown ; wings variegated with black, white 
and red ; tail very long, orange-brown, the outer feathers variegated 
with black and white. Female : the moustache the same colour 
as the cheek ; the grey on the head absent. Length, six inches and 
a half. 

This bird, although by name a tit, and placed next to the titmice 
by many naturalists in their systems, differs widely from those 
birds in some points. The question of its true position among 
passerine birds has/indeed, been a subject of controversy for a long 
time past, and is not yet settled. Some writers would have it that 
it comes nearest to the shrikes ; others, that it is most closely related 
to the buntings ; and still others place it next to the waxwing. 
Leaving aside anatomical subjects, it may be said that the bearded 
tit is unlike all these different birds and the titmice in habits, lan- 
guage, colouring, and hi its curious feather-ornaments the erectile, 
pointed, black feathers that grow between the beak and eyes, and 
form the curious long moustache which gives the bird its name. 

The bearded tit, although at all times an extremely local species, 
on account of its being exclusively an inhabitant of reed-beds, was once 
fairly common in many parts of England ; but owing to the draining 
of marshes and to the persecution of collectors, it has now become 
one of the rarest of British birds. At present it is confined to the 
district of the Broads in Norfolk, where it is, unhappily, becoming 
increasingly rare, and is threatened with extinction at no distant 
date. 

It is a very pretty bird in its buff and fawn coloured dress ; very 
elegant in form, its singular black moustache and long, graduated 
tail enhancing the beauty of its appearance ; and exceedingly grace- 
ful in its motions. It lives in the beds of reeds growing in the 
water ; and the slim, graceful, clinging bird, and the tall, slender 
stems, with their pale, pointed leaves and feathery flowers, seem 
adapted each to the other. In seeking its food it clings to the reeds, 



90 BRITISH BIED8 

much as the blue tit does to the pendent twigs of the birch. Its 
food consists of small insects and their larvae, small molluscs, and 
the seeds of the reeds. In autumn and winter it is gregarious, 
three or four, or more, families uniting in a flock, and roaming from 
reed-bed to reed-bed and from broad to broad. When disturbed, or 
alarmed at the appearance of a hawk, they drop down into conceal- 
ment among the reeds, but in a short time rise to the surface again, 
climbing parrot-like up the slender stems. There are few birds 
without a brilliant colouring that have so attractive an appearance 
as the bearded tit, especially when seen flying just above the top of 
the reeds, or when perched on a slender stem near its top, and 
swayed to and fro by the wind. Their alarm-note is harsh, but 
they have a variety of calling and singing notes, which are somewhat 
metallic in sound and very musical. A writer in Loudon's ' Maga- 
zine of Natural History ' describes the bearded tits in flight as 
* uttering in full chorus their sweetly musical notes ; it may be com- 
pared to the music of very small cymbals, is clear and ringing, 
though soft, and corresponds well with the delicacy and beauty of 
the form and colour of the bird.' 

The nest is made at the end of March or early hi April, and is 
placed on the ground, under a bush, or among the grass and herb- 
age near the water. It is composed of leaves of reeds, bents, and 
grass-blades, and lined with the fine fibres of the reed-tops. The 
eggs are four to six in number, and sometimes eight ; they are white, 
with a few minute specks, blotches, and lines of dark reddish 
brown. 

Long-tailed Titmouse. 
Acredula rosea. 

Head, neck, throat, breast, and a portion of the outer tail-feathers 
white ; back, wings, and six middle feathers of the tail black ; a 
black streak above the eye ; sides of the back and scapulars tinged 
with rosy red ; under parts reddish white. Tail very long ; beak 
very short. Length, five inches and three-quarters. 

The long-tailed tit is the least of the titmice, and is only saved 
from being described as the smallest British bird on account of its 
loose plumage and long tail, which make it look a trifle more bulky 
than the golden-crested wren. In many of its habits, and to some 
extent in its appearance, it resembles the typical tits, the five species 



LONG-TAILED TITMOUSE 



91 




FIQ. 33. LONG-TAILED TIT. natural size. 



of the genus Parus which remain to be described, and is often seen 
associating with them in winter. In its colouring, language, and 
nesting habits it 
differs from them. 
It is a somewhat sin- 
gular-looking little 
bird, with grey and 
rose-coloured plu- 
mage, short wings, 
a very long tail, 
and a short, conical 
beak, which gives 
the round head 
something of a 
parrot-like appear- 
ance. 

This species is 
found throughout 
Great Britain and 
Ireland, but is less 
common in Scot- 
land than in Eng- 
land. It inhabits woods and plantations, and, like the other tits, is 
social, active, and restless in its habits. After the breeding season the 
old and young birds remain united, and spend the autumn and winter 
months hi perpetually wandering through the woods ; but their travels 
do not take them far from home. They are seen in a scattered party, 
each member of which appears wholly occupied with his own search 
for minute insects and their eggs and larvsB, but is ready at a given 
signal to abandon his food-getting and join the others in their hurried 
flight to the next tree. And as they pass from tree to tree their short 
wings and long tails give them, as Knapp said, the appearance of a 
flight of arrows. Leaving the woods, they roam over the surround- 
ing country, making their way by short stages from tree to tree 
and from bush to bush, along lanes and hedges, and visiting the 
clumps of trees in parks and pasture-lands. They also come about 
houses, not for the crumbs that fall from the table, but to continue 
in gardens and shrubberies their endless search for minute insects. 
Very restless and anxious little hearts are theirs, one would imagine, 
from their incessant hurried Sittings from place to place, and the 
small, querulous sounds in which they converse together. 

H 



92 BRITISH BIRDS 

At night they roost huddled together in a cluster composed, in 
some cases, of half a dozen or eight birds in a row, with three or 
four others perched on their backs, and one or two more resting on 
these. 

Early in spring these curious little companies break up, and the 
song or love-call of the male bird, so unlike that of the other tits, 
may be heard a prolonged trill, low and aerial, and very delicate 
in sound. The nest is placed on a tree or bush, and is long in 
building, and a marvel of bird architecture. It is domed, oval in 
shape, with a small aperture near the top, and is composed of moss, 
lichens, and hair closely felted, and the interior thickly lined with 
feathers. Macgillivray says that the feathers taken from one nest 
numbered 2,379. Six to eleven eggs are laid, sometimes a larger 
number. They are pure white or pearly grey in ground-colour, 
thinly spotted with light red and a few faint purple marks. 

The continental form of the long-tailed tit, Acredula caudata, 
differs from A. rosea in wanting the dark stripe on the head ; spe- 
cimens without the stripe are sometimes met with in this country, 
but whether or no they are visitors from the Continent is not known. 

Great Titmouse. 
Parus major. 

Head, throat, and a band passing down the centre of the breast 
black ; back olive-green ; cheeks and a spot on the nape white ; 
breast and belly yellow. Length, six inches. 

The great tit, or oxeye, is a resident species throughout the 
British Islands, and inhabits woods and plantations, and is also 
seen in orchards, gardens, and shrubberies. He is nowhere abun- 
dant, yet very well known, being one of those species it would be 
difficult for even the least observant person to overlook. He has a 
comparatively gay plumage, and the various colours are disposed 
and contrasted in a striking way. The intense glossy black of the 
head, throat, and broad band which divides the bright greenish 
vellow of the under parts lengthways, make him a conspicuous object. 

His voice, for so small a bird, is a powerful and far-reaching 
one ; and his frequently uttered spring call, or song, composed of 
two notes repeated two or three times in succession, strikes so 
sharply on the sense that it compels attention, like ringing blows 



GREAT TITMOUSE 98 

on an anvil or on the rivets of iron rails and girders, or the sound 
of sharpening a saw. Saw- sharpener is one of its local names. 




Fio. 34. GREAT TIT. natural size. 



Another thing the oxeye is the largest of the tits, consequently 
the principal member of a group of small birds exhibiting very 
strongly marked characters. They differ from most small birds, to 
some extent, in form, colouring, and general appearance, and, in a 
greater degree, in language and habits. They are extremely active 
and restless, and spend most of their time in trees, from the bark 
of the trunk and large branches to the smallest terminal twigs and 
leaves. In winter, when the elms and other deciduous trees have 
shed their foliage, and their fine upper boughs appear like a sombre 
fretwork against the pale sky, the tits are seen at their best ; they 
are then gathered into small flocks or family parties, and may be 
observed, as they scatter about the tree, clinging to the twigs in 
every conceivable position, and looking like a company of small 
sober-coloured paroquets of this cold northern world. They sub- 
sist principally on small insects and their eggs, larvae, and chrysa- 
lids, but are almost omnivorous in their diet, feeding on buds, seed, 
and fruits, and on animal food when it can be had. A meaty bone 
or a piece of bacon, cooked or raw, or a lump of suet, will quickly 
attract them, as is well known. The oxeye, pretty little bird as it 
is, will eat carrion like any crow, and even kill and devour other 
small birds as big as himself. His rapacious habits have, however, 



94 BRITISH BIEDS 

not been very well established. In a captive condition he will 
occasionally attack a small bird in the same cage, killing it by 
vigorous blows on the head, and picking out its brains ; but in a 
state of nature the great tit would probably be able to kill only a 
young or sick bird. For so small a bird he is, undoubtedly, very 
resolute and strong ; the rapid blows of his short, strong bill on the 
bark sound like those of a nuthatch. Like that bird, he splits open 
the hard shells of seeds to get at the kernels. 

The great tit is less social and gregarious than the other species 
of this group ; still, he does unite in small parties, and joins the banda 
of mixed titmice and other small birds that form so familiar and 
interesting a feature of woods and copses in autumn and winter. 

The nest is placed in a variety of situations, but a covered site 
is usually preferred to an open one, and nests may be found in 
holes and cavities in decayed timber, holes in walls, and in old 
nests of magpies, crows, and rooks. In a well-covered site the nest 
is loosely built ; if in an open one, such as a crow's nest, the struc- 
ture is much more elaborate, dry grass, moss, hair, and wool, being 
closely woven together, and the inside thickly lined with feathers. 

The eggs vary from five to eleven in number ; usually they are 
seven or eight. They are pure white or faintly tinged with yellow, 
blotched and spotted with reddish brown. Two broods are reared 
in the season. The parent birds are very bold in defence of their 
eggs and young, and vigorously attack any bird that approaches 
the nest, without regard to its size. The sitting-bird sometimes 
refuses to leave her eggs, and when taken in the hand will bite 
and hiss like the wryneck. 

In autumn and whiter the number of great tits is considerably 
Increased by a migration from the Continent. 

Coal-Titmouse. 
Parus ater ; Parus britannicus. 

Crown, throat, and front of the neck black ; cheeks and nape 
pure white ; upper parts grey ; wings bluish grey, with two white 
bands ; under parts white tinged with grey. Length, four and a 
quarter inches. 

The coal-tit of our country (P. britannicus) differs slightly from 
the continental form (P. ater), the British bird having the slate- 



COAL-TITMOUSE 95 

prey of the upper parts suffused with brown or olive, Tvhile in the 
continental form the brown tinge is confined to the rump. The 
European coal-tit visits our islands on migration, and doubtless 
interbreeds with our bird, as intermediate varieties are found.- 

The coal-tit, or coalmouse, like the oxeye and the blue i?t, is 
generally diffused throughout the British Islands, and is not un- 
common, although nowhere abundant. In Scotland it is more 
local in its distribution, being found chiefly in districts abounding 
in pine and fir woods. It is believed to be increasing in numbers 
and extending its range in this country. In its social habits, its 
flight, and its manner of seeking its food during which it clings to 
the smaller boughs and twigs in a variety of positions it closely 
resembles the other members of its genus. It also resembles them 
in its language, although a shriller note may be detected in its 
voice, both in its call-note and song. It differs from other tits in 
its greater activity, in preferring conifers to other trees, in going 
more often to the ground to feed, and in being a greater wanderer 
out of the breeding season. 

The nest, as a rule, is placed near the ground, in a hole in a 
rotten tree-stump, or in a wall, or any other suitable place. It is 
composed of moss, hair, and feathers, felted together, and lined 
with more feathers. Six to eight eggs are laid, like those of the 
great tit in colour. Like the oxeye, it is omnivorous, but in summer 
it feeds principally on insects. 

After the breeding season the old and young birds keep together, 
and several families may unite and form a flock. One of the most 
interesting winter sights in a wood composed of pine and fir grow- 
ing together with beech and other deciduous trees is afforded by a 
wandering flock of coal-tits. As they move from tree to tree they 
attract other species of similar habits the oxeye and blue and 
marsh tits, and goldcrests, and siskins, and perhaps a couple of 
tree-creepers. Occasionally a party of long-tailed tits will join, and 
keep with the flock for some time ; but the long-tails are the most 
restless and vagrant of all, and eventually hurry on by themselves, 
leaving the more patient plodders behind. It is wonderful and 
very beautiful to see so many species thus drawn into companion- 
ship by a common social instinct, and by a similar manner of seek- 
ing their food ; a mental likeness serves to keep them together for 
hours at a time, or for a whole day, in spite of so great a diversity 
in form and colour and language. 



06 BRITISH BIRDS 

Marsh-Titmouse. 

Parus palustris. 

Forehead, crown, head, and nape black ; upper parts grey 
wings dark grey, lighter at the edges ; cheeks, throat, and breast 
dull white. Length, four inches and a half. 

It is curious that, of the seven species of birds inhabiting this 
country called titmice in the vernacular, six have been named from 
some character that strikes the eye : greater size in one, a peculiar 
feather-ornament in two, and in the remaining species a distinctive 
shape or colour ; and the names in all cases are suitable bearded, 
long-tailed, great, blue, coal, and crested. In the one case where 
this rule has been neglected the name is unsuitable and misleading 
The marsh- tit may be more partial to low or wet ground than the 
blue tit, and oxeye, and coal-tit, but the bird is found everywhere in 
woods, groves, hedgerows, orchards, and gardens and in autumi 
and whiter is seen associating with the other species in their wan- 
dering bands. But it would have been difficult to name this species 
from its colouring, which is more uniform and sober than in any oJ 
the others. He is the plainest of them all, but in his lively, social 
habits, and in his various pretty motions and attitudes, he is one of 
the family ; and so strong in him is the family likeness, that some 
find it not easy to distinguish marsh-tit from coal-tit, except when 
seen closely. In its language, also, it is unmistakably a titmouse ; 
but it is not so vociferous as the oxeye and blue tit, and its tinkering 
voice is not so sharp and loud. 

The nest is placed in a rotten stump or trunk of a tree, an old 
pollarded willow being a favourite site ; and sometimes the bird 
excavates a hole for itself in the decayed wood. The nest is made 
of moss and hair, felted together, and lined with willow down. The 
eggs are five or six in number, and are similar to those of the great 
tit in colouring. 

The marsh-tit is common in England, rarer in Scotland, and 
does not extend to Ireland, 



BLUE TITMOUSE 97 

Blue Titmouse. 
Parus caeruleus. 

Crown blue encircled with white ; cheeks white bordered with 
dark blue ; back; olive-green ; wings and tail bluish ; greater coverts 
and secondaries tipped with white ; breast and belly yellow, traversed 
by a dark blue line. Length, four and a half inches. 

The blue tit is a commoner species than the oxeye, and is even 
more widely diffused in this country, its range extending from the 
Channel Islands to the northernmost parts of Scotland, and it has 
been found as a straggler in the Orkneys and the Shetlands. All 
the qualities that distinguish the tits and make them such engaging 
birds are found in a marked degree in the present species sociability ; 
extreme vivacity, especially in the cold season ; and the power to 
assume an endless variety of graceful positions when clinging to the 
slender branches and twigs, upright or pendulous, of the leafless trees 
in winter. And as the blue tit is more abundant, and more familiar 
with man, than the others, besides having a gayer colouring, he is 
the favourite member of his genus. He promises, indeed, to become 
in tune our first feathered favourite ; for though he is without 
melody, and does not come to us with a glad message, like the 
swallow, and has no ancient sentiment and nursery literature, like 
the rob hi, to help him to the front, he possesses one unfailing attrac- 
tion he is an amusing creature. Perhaps our progenitors were 
less susceptible in that way than we are, and took no notice of 
the tomtit and his vagaries. In whiter he may be easily won with 
a little food ; and when he joins the mixed company of sparrows, 
dunnocks, blackbirds, and starlings that come to the door for crumbs 
and scraps, he is by contrast among them a * winged jewel ' a 
small wanderer from the tropics. In works of ornithology you will 
find the blue tit described as a little acrobat and harlequin, droll 
and grotesque and fantastic in his ways ; and if this Puck among 
our feathered fairies can win expressions such as these from the 
gravest scientific writers, it is not strange that ordinary folk should 
find him so fascinating. 

The language of the blue tit resembles that of the oxeye. Its 
voice is not so powerful, but the various sounds, the call and love 
notes, or song, composed of one note repeated several times without 



98 



BRITISH BIRDS 



variation, have similar sharp, incisive, and somewhat metallic 
qualities. 

In spring the wandering little companies break up, and about 
the end of April breeding begins. The nest is placed in a hole in a 
tree or wall, or wherever a suitable cavity is found. It is loosely 
formed of dry grass or moss, lined with wool, hair, and a quantity 
of feathers. Five to eight eggs are usually laid, in some cases 
as many as twelve and fourteen ; in colour they are like those of 
the great tit, and, as in the case of that species, the incubating 
bird sits closely on her eggs and hisses like a snake when interfered 
with. 

The blue tit is omnivorous in its diet. In summer it feeds 
principally on caterpillars, aphides, and insects of all kinds, some- 
times catching them on the wing. At other seasons it eats fruit 
and seeds of various kinds, buds, flesh, and, in fact, almost anything 
it can get. 

Crested Titmouse. 



Parus cristatus. 







FIG. 35. CRESTED TIT. natural size. 



Feathers of the 
crown elongated, 
and forming when 
erected a pointed 
crest, black, edged 
with white ; cheeks 
and sides of the neck 
white ; throat, collar, 
and a streak across 
the temples black ; 
all the other parts 
reddish brown ; 
lower parts white, 
faintly tinged with 
red. Length, four 
inches and three- 
quarters. 



The crested tit 

is one of the rarest and most local of British birds, being re- 
stricted to a few extensive pine-forests in the north of Scotland ; 



CRESTED TITMOUSE 



99 



indeed, there are few who know it from personal observation in this 
country. Although modest in colour, it is a pretty little bird, and 
its high, pointed crest gives it a somewhat distinguished appearance. 
In its language and habits it resembles the other members of the 
genus, and associates in the same way with birds of different species. 
Like the coal-tit, it makes its nest in a hole in a rotten tree-stump, 
and it will also breed in a crow's or magpie's old nest, or a squirrel's 
drey. The nest is made of dry grass, moss, wool, hair, fur, and 
feathers, thinly felted together ; and five or six eggs are laid, white 
in ground-colour, spotted and speckled with brownish red. 



Nuthatch. 
Sitta csesia. 




FIG. 36. NUTHATCH. natural size. 
feet light brown. Length, five inches and a half. 



Upper parts 
bluish grey; a black 
streak across the 
eye ; cheeks and 
throat white; breast 
and belly buff ; flank 
and lower tail- 
coverts chestnut- 
red ; outer tail 
feathers black, with 
a white spot near 
the end tipped with 
grey, the two central 
ones grey ; beak 
bluish black, the 
lower mandible 
white at the base; 



The nuthatch, although a small bird, not brightly coloured, and 
scarcely deserving the name of songster, exercises a singular at- 
traction ; and if it were possible to canvass all those who love birds, 
and have not fewer than half a dozen favourites, it is probable that 
in a great majority of cases the nuthatch would be found among 
them. When I see him sitting quite still for a few moments on a 
branch of a tree in his most characteristic nuthatch attitude, on or 



100 BEITISH BIRDS 

under the branch, perched horizontally or vertically, with head or 
tail uppermost, but always with the body placed beetle-wise against 
the bark, head raised, and the straight, sharp bill pointing like an 
arm lifted to denote attention at such tunes he looks less like a 
living than a sculptured bird, a bird cut out of a beautifully varie- 
gated marble blue-grey, buff, and chestnut and placed against 
the tree to deceive the eye. The figure is so smooth and compact, 
the tints so soft and stone-like ; and when he is still, he is so wonder- 
fully still, and his attitude so statuesque 1 But he is never long 
still, and when he resumes his lively, eccentric, up-and-down and side- 
way motions he is interesting in another way. One is not soon tired 
of watching his perpetual mouse-like, independent-of-the-earth's- 
gravity perambulations over the surface of the trunk and branches. 
He is like a small woodpecker who has broken loose from the wood- 
pecker's somewhat narrow laws of progression, preferring to be a 
law unto himself. 

Without a touch of brilliant colour, the nuthatch is a beautiful 
bird on account of the pleasing softness and harmonious disposition 
of his tints ; and, in like manner, without being a songster in the 
strict sense of the word, his voice is so clear and far-reaching, and 
of so pleasant a quality, that it often gives more life and spirit to 
the woods and orchards and avenues he frequents than that of 
many true melodists. This is more especially the case in the 
month of March, before the migratory songsters have arrived, and 
when he is most loquacious. A high-pitched, clear, ringing note, 
repeated without variation several times, is his most often-heard 
call or song. He will sometimes sit motionless on his perch, repeat- 
ing this call at short intervals, for half an hour at a tune. Another 
bird at a distance will be doing the same, and the two appear to be 
answering one another. He also has another call, not so loud and 
piercing, but more melodious : a double note, repeated two or three 
times, with something liquid and gurgling in the sound, suggesting 
the musical sound of lapsing water. These various notes and 
calls are heard incessantly until the young are hatched, when the 
birds all at once become silent. 

A hole in the trunk or branch of a large tree is used as a nesting. 
place, the entrance, if too large, being walled up with clay, only a small 
opening to admit the bird being left. At the extremity of the hole 
a bed of dry leaves is made. The eggs are five to seven in number, 
white, and spotted with brownish red, sometimes with purple. When 
the sitting-bird is interfered with she defends her treasures with 



NUTHATCH . 



101 



great courage, hissing like the wryneck, and vigorously striking at 
the aggressor with her sharp bill. 

The food of the nuthatch during a greater portion of the year 
consists of small insects and their larvae, found in the crevices of the 
bark ; hence the bird is most often seen frequenting old rough-barked 
trees, the oak being a special favourite, more especially if it happens 
to be well covered with lichen. At times, when seeking its prey, 
its rapid and vigorous blows on the bark or portion of rotten wood 
can be heard at a considerable distance, and are frequently mistaken 
for those of the woodpecker. In autumn the nuthatch feeds largely 
on nuts and fruit- stones, and to get at the kernel he carries the nut 
to a tree, and wedges it firmly in a crevice or in the angle made by 
a forked branch, then hammers at the end with his sharp beak 
until the shell is split open and the kernel disclosed. Its love of 
nuts makes it easy to attract the bird to a tree or wall close to the 
house by fixing nuts in the crevices. If supplied regularly with this 
kind of food it soon grows trustful, and may even be taught to 
come to call, and even to catch morsels of food thrown to it in 
the air. Canon Atkinson, in his lively and interesting * Sketches in 
Natural History,' has described the amusing manners of a pair of 
nuthatches which he thus made tame by feeding. Since his book 
was published, about twenty-five years ago, many persons have 
adopted the same plan with success. 

Wren. 

Troglodytes parvulus. 

Upper parts reddish brown with transverse dusky bars ; quills 
barred alternately with black and reddish brown ; tail dusky, barred 
with black ; over the eye a pale narrow streak ; under parts pale 
reddish brown ; flanks and thighs marked with dark streaks. Length, 
three inches and a half. 

The little nut-brown wren nut-like, too, in his smallness and 
round, compact figure with cocked-up tail and jerky motions and 
gesticulations, and flight as of a fairy partridge with rapidly-beating, 
short wings, that produce a whirring noise if you are close enough to 
hear it, is a familiar creature to almost every person throughout the 
three kingdoms, and is even more generally diffused than the house - 
sparrow. Something of the feeling which we have for the swallow, 



102 



BRITISH BIRDS 




FIG. 37. WREN. natural size. 



the house-martin, and the robin redbreast, falls to the share of the 
small wren. He is one of the few general favourites, although, 
perhaps, not so great a favourite as the others just named. The 

reason of this is, doubt- 
less, because he is less do- 
mestic, never so familiar 
with man or tolerant of 
close observation. The 
wren is never tame nor 
unsuspicious; he is less 
dependent on us than 
other small birds that 
attach themselves to 
human habitations, never 
a * pensioner ' in the same 
degree as the blue tit, 
dunnock, blackbird, and 
sparrow. The minute 
spiders, chrysalids, ear- 
wigs, and wood-lice 

with other creeping things to be found in obscure holes and cor- 
ners hi wood-piles, ivy-covered walls, and outhouses, are more to his 
taste than the ' sweepings of the threshold.' His small size, modest 
colouring, and secrecy ; his activity, and habit of seeking his food in 
holes and dark places which are not explored by other insectivorous 
species, enable him to exist in a great variety of conditions gardens, 
orchards, deep woods, open commons, hedgerows, rocky shores, 
swamps, mountains, and moors ; there are, indeed, few places where 
the small, busy wren is not to be met with. This ability of the wren 
to find everywhere in nature a neglected corner to occupy would 
appear to give it a great advantage over other small birds ; moreover, 
it is very prolific, and excepting, perhaps, two species of cits, is more 
successful than any other small bird in rearing large broods of young. 
Nevertheless, the wrens do not seem to increase. At the end of 
Slimmer they are very abundant, and you will, perhaps, be able to 
count a dozen birds where only one pair appeared in spring ; but 
when spring comes again you will generally find that the popu- 
lation has fallen back to its old numbers. The larger increase in 
summer indicates a greater mortality during the rest of the year 
than is suffered by other species. The wren is said to eat fruit 
occasionally, and even seeds ; but it is almost exclusively insectivo- 



WEEN 108 

rous, and probably perishes in large numbers during periods of frost, 
when larks, pipits, and titmice become seed- eaters. Yet the wren 
is a hardy little bird, a resident all the year round in the coldest 
parts of our country, and one of the few songsters which may be 
heard in all seasons. Even during a frost, if the sun shines, the 
wren will sing as gaily as in summer. His song is his greatest 
charm. It is unlike that of any other British melodist a loud, 
bright lyric, the fine, clear, high-pitched notes and trills issuing in 
a continuous rapid stream from beginning to end. Although rapid, 
and ending somewhat abruptly, it is a beautiful and finished per- 
formance, in which every note is distinctly enunciated and has its 
value. When near it sounds very loud : one is surprised to hear so 
loud a song from so small a creature. But it does not carry far : the 
notes of the song-thrush, blackbird, and nightingale can be heard at 
nearly three times the distance. 

The wren begins his nest-building at the end of April, and in 
selecting a site exercises a greater freedom than most small birds. 
The nests may be found in trees, bushes, masses of ivy or other 
dense vegetation, hedgerows, holes in banks and walls, crevices in 
rocks, in furze-bushes, and close to the ground among the bramble- 
bushes. There is also a great variety in the materials used in 
building different nests. As a rule, one kind of material is used for 
the outer part of the structure, which is domed, and very large for 
the bird. It may be moss or dead leaves, or moss and leaves woven 
together, or dry grass leaves and stems, or dead fern-fronds. The 
nest is not only well concealed, but in most cases the outside is 
made to assimilate in colour to the vegetation surrounding it. The 
opening is near the top of the nest ; inside, the cavity is lined with 
moss, hah*, and feathers. Four or five eggs are laid, often a larger 
number, and it is not unusual to find as many as eight or nine eggs 
in a nest. Not long ago, in a wood in Berkshire, I saw eight young 
wrens sitting in a row on a branch near the ground, and watched 
them being fed by the old birds. The eggs are pure white, thinly 
spotted with pinkish red. Two broods are reared in the season. 
Imperfect or false nests are often found near the nest containing 
the eggs, and are called ' cocks' nests,' the belief being that they 
e made by the male bird. 



104 BRITISH BIKD9 



Pied Wagtail. 

Motacilla lugubris, 







FIG. 38. PIED WAGTAIL. natural size. 

Slimmer plumage variegated with white and black ; back and 
scapulars, chin, throat, and neck black ; a small portion of the side of 
the neck white. Winter plumage : back and scapulars ash-grey ; 
chin and throat white, with a black, but not entirely isolated, 
gorget. Length, seven and a half inches. 

The pied wagtail is probably not more abundant hi this country 
than the yellow wagtail, but is far better known, being a more 
generally diffused species, often seen in the neighbourhood of 
houses where the yellow wagtail never comes. And if there be a 
pied wagtail anywhere within range of sight, it is sure to be seen and 
recognised, for in its black-and-white plumage it is the most con- 
spicuous small bird in this country, not excepting the kingfisher, 
snow-bunting and blackbird. When tripping about a smooth lawn 
he looks double his real size, and reminds one of a magpie in a field 
or an oyster-catcher on a wide stretch of level sand. 

The pied wagtail is found in this country all the year round, but 
many birds (probably the large majority) migrate annually. Knoi, 
in his ' Ornithological Eambles in Sussex,' says that they arrive on 



PIED WAGTAIL 105 

the Sussex coast about the middle of March, the old males first, the 
females and the males of the previous year a few days later. They 
are sometimes seen in large numbers near the coast, resting after 
their voyage before proceeding inland. The return migration takes 
place at the end of August or early in September. 

Meadows and pasture-lands in the neighbourhood of a running 
stream are favourite resorts of the wagtail, and it is fond of attend- 
ing cattle for the sake of the numbers of insects driven from their 
shelter in the grass by the grazing animals. 

The pied wagtail is not so lively, quick, and graceful as the 
yellow and the grey species ; but if you watch him for any length of 
time he, too, gives you the idea of a creature that never continues 
in the same mind for a minute at a time, but acts according to 
the impulse of the moment, and is as unstable as a ball of thistle- 
down. He runs, then stands, and shakes his tail ; for two or 
three moments he searches for food ; then chases an insect, and is 
still again, waiting for a new impulse to move him : suddenly he 
flies away, not straight, as if with an object in view, but with a 
curving, dipping, erratic flight, governed seemingly by no will ; and 
just as suddenly alighting again, when he is once more seen standing 
still and shaking his tail. The call-note, a sharp chirp of two 
syllables, is emitted once or twice during flight. The song is a loud, 
hurried warble, uttered on the wing as the bird hovers at a moderate 
height from the ground. But the pied wagtail has another way 
of singing, especially in early spring : this is a warble so low that 
at the distance of fifteen yards it is just audible, and is sometimes 
uttered continuously for two or three minutes at a stretch. 

The nest is made, as a rule, in a hollow or cavity in the ground, 
or in a crevice or hole hi a bank or rock, or under a stone, or at 
the roots of a furze-bush. It is built of fine dry grass, moss, and 
various other materials, and lined with hair and feathers. The eggs 
are four or five, pale bluish in tint, and spotted with greyish brown. 



Grey Wagtail. 
Motacilla melanope. 

Summer plumage : head and back bluish grey ; a pale streak 
over the eye ; throat black ; under parts bright yellow. Winter 
plumage : chin and throat whitish, passing into yellow. Length, 
seven inches and a half. 



106 BBITISH BIRDS 

The grey wagtail is the prettiest and the least common of the 
three species of Motacilla inhabiting the British Islands. Like 




Fro. 39. GREY WAGTAIL. natural size. 

the dipper, it frequents mountain streams, but is not restricted to 
them. In England it is a somewhat rare species, but is more 
common in Scotland and Ireland. It remains with us throughout 
the year, but although a permanent resident in most parts of the 
country, it is certain that it disappears in autumn from many of its 
breeding-haunts in Scotland and the north of England, and that a 
large number of these northern birds winter in the southern and 
western counties. 

The grey wagtail is frequently spoken of as a bird of brilliant 
plumage. It is not exactly that, but the various colours are so soft 
and delicate, they harmonise so admirably, and show in the velvet- 
black of the gorget and pure canary-yellow of the breast so fine a 
contrast, that the effect is most beautiful, and pleases, perhaps, more 
than the colouring of any other British bird. And this is not all. 
The charm which the grey wagtail has for those who know it 
intimately consists in the union of delicate colouring with a delicate 
form and exquisitely graceful motion. Ornithologists have called 
it a ' fairy-like bird,' and the terms in which they have sometimes 
recorded their impressions of it might lead one to imagine that 
they are speaking, not of a bird, but of some elusive nymph of 
the mountain rivulets, of whom they had caught a glimpse in their 



OEEY WAGTAIL 107 

rambles. To its other charms may be added that of melody. Its 
spring song is sweet and lively, a little like that of the swallow in 
character, and is uttered as the bird hovers in the air. The alarm- 
note is like that of the pied wagtail, a sharp double note, emitted 
as the bird passes away in undulating flight. 

The grey wagtail is more exclusively a bird of the waterside 
than either of the other two species, seldom being met with away 
from the margins of its beloved mountain streams ; in its flight, 
motions on the ground, and manner of taking its insect prey, it 
closely resembles the pied and yellow wagtails, the only difference 
being that it is even more volatile, and that it is the most graceful 
of these three feathered Graces. 

The nest is made on the ground, concealed by grass and herb- 
age, or under a bush, and often under the shelter of an overhanging 
rock. It is formed of fibrous roots, dry grass, and moss, and lined 
with hair, wool, and feathers. The eggs are five or six in number, 
French white or grey in ground-colour, mottled and spotted with 
pale brown and olive. 

Yellow Wagtail. 
Motacilla rayii. 

Top of head, lore, nape, back, and scapulars greenish olive ; a 
bright yellow streak over the eye ; lower parts sulphur-yellow 
Length, six inches. 

The yellow wagtail is a summer visitor, arriving at the end of 
March or early in April in this country, and is found very nearly in 
all parts of England, and is also common in the southern counties 
of Scotland ; farther north it is rare, and in Ireland it is only known 
to breed in one locality. On its arrival it frequents open downs and 
sheepwalks, pastures, commons, and arable lands, more especially 
fields where spring sowing is in progress. On this account it has 
been named in some districts the barley-bird and oat-seed-bird, and 
in Scotland seed-bird and seed-lady the last a suitable appellation 
for so sweet and dainty a creature. Seebohm says of it : ' Its active, 
sylph-like movements, and its delicate form and lovely plumage, 
make it a general favourite.' In its motions on the ground, its 
tail shaking and fanning gestures, and in its fitful curving and 
dipping flight, accompanied with a sharp double call-note, it closely 
resembles the species already described. From the pied wagtail it 



108 BRITISH BIRDS 

differs in never coming about houses or breeding in their vicinity ; 
and from the grey wagtail in not being restricted to the waterside. 
In the fields it follows the plough, and in the pastures it is often 
seen with the cattle, chasing the small twilight moths and other 
insects driven from the grass. 

As the season advances it forsakes the cultivated lands and open 
downs, and is more restricted to borders of streams, and to meadows 
and pastures not far from water. The nest is placed on the ground 
under the grass and herbage, and is formed of dry bents and fibrous 
roots, and lined with hair. Four to six eggs are laid, mottled with 
pale brown and olive on a French- white ground. 

Besides the three species described we have the white wagtail 
(Motacilla alba!) as a rare visitor to the south of England and Ire- 
land, and the blue-headed yellow wagtail (Motacilla flavd), an acci- 
dental straggler to the southern, south-western, and eastern counties 
of England. These two species breed throughout Europe, the first 
being the continental form of our pied wagtail, which it closely 
resembles ; and the second, of the yellow wagtail. 

Meadow- Pip it. 

Anthus pratensis. 

Hind claw longer than the toe, slightly curved. Upper parts ash 
tinged with olive, the cenlre of each feather dark brown; under 
parts dull buffy white, with numerous elongated spots of dull brown. 
Length, five inches and three-quarters. 

To the uninformed the pipits are lesser larks ; they are lark-like 
in figure, in their sober, mottled colouring, in habits, language, and, 
to some extent, in the action which accompanies their song. But, 
in spite of these outward resemblances, modern authorities have 
removed them from the position they once occupied next to the 
larks in classification, to place them by the side of the wagtails, 
which are now supposed to be their nearest relations. And when 
wagtails and pipits are seen running and flying about together, it 
strikes us that there is among them a certain family resemblance ; 
but we see, too, that the wagtails have diverged greatly, and are 
much more graceful in figure, have longer tails, and a gayer plumage ; 
they are also more aerial in habit, and warble a more varied strain. 
From the fact that the numerous species of pipits are so much alike, 



MEADOW-PIPIT 109 

not only in appearance, but also in habits, language, and flight, 
and that they are so widely distributed on the globe, being found 
both on continents and oceanic islands, it may be inferred that the 
modest earth-loving pipit represents the original form from which 
the wagtails have sprung. 

Of our three species, the meadow-pipit is by far the most nume- 
rous, being found in all open situations, moist or dry, meadow 
and waste-land, moor and mountain- side, and close by the sea, 
where one can listen to meadow-pipit and rock-pipit singing together, 
or alternately, like birds of one species, and compare the two songs, 
that are so much alike. This species is, moreover, to be met with 
in all parts of our country, from the warm Hampshire and Dorset 
coasts to the western islands of Scotland; .but while in the main a 
resident all the year round in the southern parts of the country, in 
the bleak and barren districts of the farther north he is migratory, 
and moves southward in winter in considerable flocks. 

The meadow-pipit seeks his food on the ground, and moves 
nimbly about in search of minute beetles, caterpillars, and seeds, 
pausing at intervals to stand motionless for a few seconds, with head 
raised and tail slowly moving up and down. When approached he 
displays a curious mixture of timidity and tameness, and eyes the 
intruder with suspicion, but flies with reluctance. The flight is a 
succession of jerky movements, the bird rising and falling in a 
somewhat wild, erratic manner. 

In the love season the male pipit occasionally takes his stand 
on a weed or low bush ; but on moors, hills, and stony waste lands 
he prefers a stone or mound of earth for a perch. From such an 
elevation he is able to keep watch on the movements of his mate, 
and, when the singing spirit takes him, to launch himself easily on 
the air. To sing he soars up to a height of forty feet or more, then 
glides gracefully down, with tail spread and wings half-closed and 
motionless, presenting the figure of a barbed arrow-head. In his 
descent he emits a series of notes with little or no variation in 
them, slightly metallic in sound, and very pleasing. These notes 
are occasionally repeated as the bird sits motionless on the ground. 

In describing bird-melody it is sometimes borne in on us that 
all that has, or can be, said about the song of any species is not 
only inadequate, but in a sense even false, inasmuch as a single 
song of an individual is described as compared with that of some 
other, usually nearly related, species. Thus, the meadow-pipit's 
song is said to be less rich and varied, and in every way inferior to 



110 



BEITISH BIEDS 



that of the tree-pipit. This is true enough, so far as it goes, but it does 
not take into account the different scenes in the midst of which 
the two distinct sounds are heard. The song of a single meadow- 
pipit, heard close at hand, is a slight performance an attenuated 
and not very dulcet sound. The effect is wholly different and most 
delightful when a dozen or twenty birds are within hearing, singing 
at intervals at a distance, on a perfectly calm day on the moors or 
downs. As the little widely-scattered, unseen melodists rise and 
fall, the sounds they emit are refined to something bell-like and deli- 
cate : the effect is unique and indescribably charming and fairy-like. 
The nest is a neat structure, usually placed hi a small cavity in the 
ground, under a bunch of grass or heather, and is made of dry 
bents, and lined with fine grass, fibrous roots, and hair. Four to 
six eggs are laid ; these vary greatly in colour and markings, but 
the most common form is white, thickly mottled over with greyish 
brown. "When the nest is approached the parent birds display 
great solicitude, flying from place to place, and incessantly uttering 
a sharp but plaintive chirp of alarm. 



Tree-Pipit. 

Anthus trivialis. 




FIG 40. TREE-PIPIT, j natural size. 



Upper parts ash 
tinged with olive, the 
centre of each feather dark 
brown ; a double band 
across the wing, formed by 
the yellowish white tips of 
the lesser and middle 
wing-coverts ; the outer 
pair of tail feathers white ; 
throat and region of the 
eye dull white ; breast 
huff, with elongated spots 
of dark brown ; belly and 
lower tail-coverts dull 
white. Length, six inches. 

Of the three species of 
Anthus inhabiting the 



TREE-PIPIT 111 

British Islands, and which are appropriately named of the tree, rock, 
and meadow, according to their respective habits, the tree-pipit alone 
is migratory, appearing in this country about the third week in April, 
to remain until the end of September, and sometimes longer. In size, 
colour, and general appearance it so closely resembles the meadow- 
pipit that the two species are hardly distinguishable, except by exa- 
mination in the hand. They also resemble each other in their feeding 
habits, running about in the grass in a mouse -like manner in search 
of the small insects and seeds on which they subsist, and, when 
flushed, starting up suddenly, with a sharp chirp of alarm, and going 
away with a wild, jerky flight. The tree-pipit is distributed widely 
over the country, and is found at most wood sides, and where trees 
grow singly or in isolated groups about the pasture-lands. Where 
the conditions are favourable he is a common bird, but never abun- 
dant. In spring and summer the tree-pipit is solitary, and it is 
possible that the males, as with the redbreast and nightingale, are 
not tolerant of other singers of their own species near them, as they 
are always found occupying trees far apart seldom, in fact, within 
hearing distance of one another. On the arrival of the birds in 
April each male chooses a home, a feeding-ground, with a tree or 
trees to sing on, and this spot he will occupy until the end of the 
breeding season, after which the birds resort to the fallows and 
stubbles, and sometimes before departure they are seen gathered in 
small flocks. 

It has been said of the tree-pipit's song that it is like that of the 
canary, and that it ' is perhaps more attractive from the manner in 
which it is given than from its actual quality.' Both statements are 
true in a measure : that is to pay, they will be found true in many 
instances, but not always. For there are few birds hi which the 
song varies so much in different individuals. The reiterated, clear, 
thin notes and trills that so closely resemble those of the caged 
canary are heard in some songs, and not in others. As a rule, the 
bird perches on a favourite tree, very often using the same branch, 
and at intervals, rising into the air, ascends with rapidly-beating 
wings, and when it attains to the highest point usually as high again 
as the tree, but sometimes considerably higher the song begins with 
a succession of notes resembling the throat-notes of the skylark, but 
very much softer. With the song the descent begins, the open wings 
fixed motionless, and so raised as to give the bird a parachute -like 
appearance, falling slowly in a beautiful curve or spiral ; on the perch 
the song continues, but with notes of a different quality clear, 



112 



BBITISH BIED8 



sweet and expressive repeated many times. Having ended it? 
song, it remains perched for a few moments silent, or else uttering 
notes as at the beginning, until once more it quits its perch, either 
to repeat the flight and song, or to drop to the ground, from which 
it shortly ascends to sing again. The manner in which the song 
is given is thus always beautiful, and in some individuals there is a 
wonderful sweetness in the quality of the voice. 

The nest is built near the male bird's favourite tree, and is placed 
in a hollow in the ground, and so well concealed by the grass and 
herbage that it is almost impossible to find it, unless by flushing the 
incubating bird from it. It is formed of fine dry grass and fibrous 
roots, and lined with horsehair. Four to six eggs are laid, of a dull 
white ground-colour, spotted with dull brown, grey, and purple, 
sometimes with blotches and hair-like marks among the spots. The 
eggs of this species vary a great deal. 



Rock-Pipit. 

Anthus obscurus. 

Hind claw equal 
to the toe in length, 
much curved. Upper 
parts greenish 

brown, the centre of 
each feather darker 
brown ; a whitish 
streak over the eye ; 
under parts dull 
white, spotted and 
streaked with dark 
brown. Length, six 
and a quarter inches. 

The rock-pipit is 
the only songster 
Fia. 41. ROCK-PIPIT. natural size. that inhabits the 

seashore, and this is 

the one distinction of this small dull-coloured bird. It is true 
that the starling sometimes nests, like the jackdaw, in cliffs, and 
that sparrows, wagtails, and a few other species, are occasionally 




BOCK-PIPIT 118 

to be seen on the sands and among the rocks ; but they are only 
casual visitors in such places they are inland birds, that live and 
breed in meadows, hedgerows, woods, and commons. The rock- 
pipit is of the seashore exclusively, and everywhere inhabits the 
coasts of Great Britain and Ireland where there are rocks and cliffs, 
and all the rocky islands and islets in the neighbouring seas ; his 
nest is not found nor his song heard out of sound of the ocean. In 
summer he keeps very close to the sea, and his food then consists 
principally of minute crustaceans and marine insects and worms ; 
in the autumn and winter months he unites in small flocks, and 
visits the salt-marshes and low grounds near the shore, and he then 
feeds mostly on small seeds. His song, if heard at a distance from 
the sea, would not be distinguished from that of the meadow-pipit ; 
the action which accompanies the song is also the same in both 
species. Occasionally he delivers his notes while sitting on a rock ; 
but as a rule he soars up to a moderate height, either silent or else 
repeating the first note of the song at regular intervals, then descends 
with a slow, sliding flight to the earth, and descending emits his 
best notes, short and simple, but with a melodious tinkling sound 
which is very pleasant to listen to, especially when several indi- 
viduals are heard at once. When intruded on in his rocky haunts, 
or anxious for the safety of his young, his alarm-note, sharp yet 
plaintive, closely resembles that of the meadow-pipit. The nest, 
built in May, is carefully concealed among the rocks, beneath 
a tuft of grass, or in a well-sheltered hole or crevice in the rock, and 
is composed of small scraps of seaweed, dry grass, and moss, and 
lined with fine dry grass or hair. Four or five eggs are laid, white 
or pale bluish in ground-colour, thickly mottled with dull greyish 
brown or reddish brown spots. 

Besides those described, three other species of Anthus have been 
included among British birds. These are the tawny pipit (Anthus 
campestris), Richard's pipit (Anthus richardi), and the water-pipit 
(Anthus spipoletta). The first two are occasional visitors to the 
south of England ; of the water-pipit, a very few specimens have 
been obtained in different parts of the country. 

Two beautiful British birds, unfortunately not indigenous nor 
regular in their visits to our country, may be mentioned in this 
place. They represent two families : OriolidaB, which follows Mota- 
cillidfiB (wagtails ani pipits) ; and Ampelidse, which comes after 



114 



BRITISH BIRDS 



Laniidee (shrikes). One is the golden oriole (Oriolus galbulus), a 
rare straggler to England on migration from Central and Southern 
Europe. It has been known to breed in the southern counties, and, 
if protected, would probably become an annual visitant. The other 
species is the waxwing (Ampelis garrulus), an irregular visitor in 
winter, sometimes in considerable numbers, from the arctic circle. 



Red-backed Shrike. 
Lanius collurio. 




FIG. 42. KED-BACKED SHRIKE. natural size. 

Frontal band, lores, and ear-coverts black ; crown and nape 
grey ; mantle chestnut-brown ; quills dark brown edged with rufous ; 
tail-coverts grey; tail-feathers white at their bases, the other 
portion and the whole of the two central ones black ; under parts 
rose-buff ; bill and feet black. Length, seven inches. 

The shrike is distinguished among perching birds by its sharply 
hooked, toothed, rapacious beak, and its hawk-like habit of preying 
on small birds, mice, shrews, frogs, and lizards. The extraordinary 
custom it has of impaling its victims on thorns has won for it the 
unpleasant name of butcher-bird, by which it is best known to 
country-people. Some naturalists have expressed the opinion that 



RED-BACKED SHRIKE 115 

the shrike does not often attack small birds ; and this would seem a 
reasonable view to take when we consider that the bird is no bigger 
than a skylark. But it is impossible to follow with the eye all the 
wanderings and the actions of all kinds that go to make the day of 
any wild bird ; we really see only a very small part of the killing 
that goes on. The little feathered butcher is small in size, but his 
spirit is bold, and his taste for flesh not to be doubted. In a question 
of this kind I believe our slight intermittent observation is less to 
be depended on than the reputation if such a word may be used 
in this connection which the shrike bears among his feathered 
fellow-creatures. He is by them reputed dangerous, a bird of prey 
to be avoided, or at least regarded with extreme suspicion. We are 
accustomed to say that we do not know a man until we come to 
live with him ; and the small birds live with the shrike, and there- 
fore know him best. 

The red-backed shrike is a summer visitor, arriving in this 
country early in April, and is not an uncommon species in England 
and Wales, being most numerous in the southern counties ; but its 
range does not extend to Ireland, and in North Britain it is only 
known as a straggler. It inhabits the open borders of woods, 
rough commons, and high hedges, and has the habit of sitting con- 
spicuously perched, often for an hour at a stretch, on the summit of 
an isolated bush or low tree, or on a fence or any other elevated 
stand, where it has a pretty appearance. From its perch it watches 
for its prey, but is by no means a motionless and depressed-looking 
watcher, like the flycatcher : its movements on its stand, as it turns 
its head from side to side and jerks and fans its tail, frequently 
uttering its low, percussive, chat-like chirp or call-note, give the 
impression of a creature keenly alive to everything passing around 
it. The shrike is, in fact, attentively watching air, earth, and the 
surrounding herbage and bushes for a victim, which he captures 
by a sudden dart, taking it by surprise. Besides small vertebrates, 
he preys on various large insects beetles, grasshoppers, wasps, 
bees, &c. seizing them in the air as they fly past, or dropping 
upon them on the ground. He often devours the insects 
captured on the spot, then returns to his stand ; but he also has a 
favourite thorn-bush or tree to which he is accustomed to convey 
many of the creatures he takes, to impale them on thorns or fix 
them on forked twigs. He has the habit of plucking birds before 
devouring them ; and it is doubtless easier for him to pluck a small 
bird and pull anything he catches to pieces when fixed on a thorn, 



116 BEITISH BIRDS 

for, being without crooked claws, he is incapable of grasping his 
victim and holding it steady while operating on it. This is one of 
those instincts which simulate reason very closely. The number of 
remains of victims sometimes found suspended to a butcher-bird's 
tree shows that he is occasionally very destructive to small birds. 
In a case recorded in the ' Zoologist ' (1875, p. 4723), bodies of the 
great tit, blue tit, long-tailed tit, robin, hedge-sparrow, and young 
of blackbirds and thrushes, were found. The indigestible portions 
swallowed bones, fur, and whig-cases of large beetles are cast up 
in pellets. 

In the pairing season the shrike utters at tunes a chirruping 
song, not unlike the attempted singing of a sparrow in sound. The 
nest is large, and placed hi a thick bush or hedge, and is com- 
posed outwardly of stalks, and inside of fibrous roots and moss, 
lined with fine bents and a little horsehair. Four to six eggs are 
laid ; these vary a good deal, the ground being pale green, pale buff, 
cream or pale salmon-colour, spotted and blotched, principally at the 
large end, with reddish brown and purplish grey. 

After leaving the nest the young keep company with then- 
parents until their departure in September and October. 

There are four more species of Lanius in the list of British 
birds, all stragglers the great grey shrike (Lanius excubitor), a 
breeder in Central Europe ; Pallas's great grey shrike (Lanius 
major), from North Scandinavia and Siberia ; the lesser grey shrike 
(Lanius minor), from. Central and Southern Europe ; the woodchat 
(Lanius pomeranus), also from Central and Southern Europe. 

Spotted Flycatcher. 
Muscicapa grisola. 

Upper parts ash-brown; feathers of the head marked with 
central dark line ; under parts white, the sides marked with longi- 
tudinal brown streaks ; flanks tinged with red. Length, five and a 
hah* inches. 

The spotted flycatcher is one of our commonest summer 
migrants, and at the same time one of the least remarked. He is a 
late comer, arriving about the middle of May ; but he does not come 
after the leaves are out, to conceal himself among them, after the 



SPOTTED FLYCATCHER 



117 




manner of the wood-wren and of other small insect-eaters. From 
the day of his arrival he is exposed to sight in the places he 
frequents parks, skirts of 
woods, orchards, gardens, 
and the borders of fields and 
meadows. The area in- 
habited by each bird, or pair, 
is very circumscribed, and 
contains a few favourite 
perching-places, which are 
regularly occupied at dif- 
ferent hours of the day. The 
perching-place is on a pro- 
jecting branch, or, better 
still, a dead branch of a bush 
or tree, a wire fence, or a 
paling or gatepost. He 
comes near houses, and he 
may have a stand within 
twenty or thirty yards of the 
door, from which those who FlG -^.-SPOTTED FLYCATCHER. 

come and go may have him * natural size - 

full in sight for several hours each day. But little or no notice 
is taken of him. And it is not strange, for of all our birds he is 
the least attractive, in his pale, obscure plumage, as he sits silent 
and motionless, listless and depressed in appearance, showing 
neither alarm nor curiosity when regarded. Seen thus he is like 
a silent grey ghost of a little dead bird returned to haunt the sun- 
light. Despite this listless appearance he is keenly alive to outward 
things. As the motionless heron watches the water, with the 
creatures that move like vague shadows in it, the flycatcher watches 
the air and the living things, minute and swift- winged, that inhabit 
it. At intervals he quits his perch and makes a dash at some pass- 
ing insect, which he captures, his mandibles closing on it with an 
audible snap; then returns to his stand and his watching once 
more. 

His call-note is a feeble chirp, two or three times repeated ; and 
he is said to have a song, which few have heard, composed of a few 
rambling notes in a low tone. 

The flycatcher begins to build soon after its arrival, and a 
favourite site for the nest is in the ivy growing against a wall ; 



118 BRITISH BIRDS 

nests are also made in holes in walls and in the trunks of trees, on 
horizontal branches, and in a variety of situations. The nest is 
composed of dry grass and moss, mixed with a few feathers, and 
lined with rootlets and horsehair. Five or six eggs are laid ; they 
are bluish white or pale green in ground-colour, clouded, blotched 
and spotted with reddish brown. 

Flycatchers return to the same nesting-place year after year. 
One brood only is reared, and the birds leave us by the third week 
in September. 

Pied Flycatcher. 
Muscicapa atricapilla. 

Upper parts and tail black; wings black, with the central 
coverts white ; scapulars edged with white ; under parts white. 
Female : greyish brown instead of black ; the white dingy ; the 
three lateral tail-feathers edged with white. Length, five inches. 

The pied flycatcher is comparatively a rare bird, and is unknown 
to a great majority of the inhabitants of this country, being re- 
itricted to a few localities in the north of England and the south of 
Scotland, and to some parts of North Wales, and the English 
counties bordering on Wales. In its nesting and feeding habits, 
and its partiality for orchards and gardens, it is like the spotted 
flycatcher ; but it arrives earlier than that species, usually during 
the last week in April or the first week in May. Its black-and- 
white plumage gives it a very different and a much more attractive 
appearance. The only other point in which the two species differ 
greatly is in the number and colour of the eggs. Those of the pied 
flycatcher number from five to eight, and are very beautiful, being 
of a uniform delicate pale blue, and unspotted. 

A third species, the red-breasted flycatcher (Musicapa parva), 
has been included in the list of stragglers from Central and Eastern 
Europe to this country. 

Swallow. 
Hirundo rustica. 

Forehead and throat chestnut-brown ; upper parts, sides of 
neck, and a bar across the breast black, with violet reflections ; 
lower parts dull reddish white. Tail long and forked. Female : 



SWALLOW 



119 



less red on the forehead and less black on the breast ; under parts 
white; outer tail-feathers shorter. Length, seven and a half 
inches. 

The swallow, as we usually see him, gliding and doubling in the 
air with a freedom surpassing that of other birds, has considerable 




FIG. 44. SWALLOW. natural size. 



beauty, being richly coloured and of an elegant figure, with sharply 
forked tail and long, pointed wings. But this is not the reason of 
the charm he has for us, since there are other more beautiful birds 
that inspire no such feeling. He is loved above most species on 
account of his domestic habits and familiarity with man. There 
would be few swallows in a dispeopled and savage England, with 
all its buildings crumbled to earth, for he would then be compelled 
to return to the original habits of the wild swallow, and build his 
mud cradle hi rocky cliffs and caverns. As things are he is not 
dependent on cliffs, for he has taken kindly to human habitations, 
and increases with the increase of house-building, until he ha* 
become one of the commonest and most generally diffused species. 
And being a house -bird, and accustomed to the human form, when 
our summer migrants return to us with the return of the sun, and 
the others seek their customary homes in woods and groves by 



120 BRITISH BIRDS 

the sides of streams and marshes, and on downs and waste lands, 
the swallow alone comes direct to us to deliver the glad message, 
so that even the sick and aged and infirm, who can no longer leave 
their beds or rooms, are able to hear it. What wonder that we 
cherish a greater affection for, and are more intimate with, the swal- 
low than with our other feathered fellow-creatures I 

The swallow is very evenly distributed over the whole of Great 
Britain and Ireland, but the date of his arrival varies considerably 
in different districts. In the south of England he makes his 
appearance early in April, and arrives in the northern counties 
about the middle of that month, but in the north of Scotland not 
until the first week in May. He is most abundant about villages 
and large country-houses and farms ; but wherever human habita- 
tions exist, however modest in size they may be, he is to be met 
with. Swallows are eminently gregarious, and even during the 
breeding season all the birds inhabiting one neighbourhood are 
accustomed to feed and practise their aerial exercises in company. 
At this season their gatherings are, however, intermittent, and in 
part accidental. "Where flying insects are abundant the swallows 
quicky gather. At one time of the day they may be seen coursing 
up and down the lanes and roads and village streets, gliding close 
to the ground with great speed ; in rough weather they will assemble 
in scores or hundreds on the sheltered side of a wood, or lane, or 
a row of elms ; but on a warm, damp day, they frequent the 
meadows and low grounds near the water, where insects are most 
abundant. 

The swallow has a variety of sharp little chirps and twittering 
notes, and a loud, startled, double alarm-note, uttered at the appear- 
ance of a hawk speeding through the air, or at sight of a prowling 
cat. The appearance of a hawk excites as much anger as fear, and 
he generally goes in pursuit of it ; but the note is understood by 
other small birds, and has the effect of sending them quickly into 
hiding. The song, uttered sometimes on the wing, but more fre- 
quently when perched, is very charming, and seems more free and 
spontaneous than that of any bird possessing a set song, the notes 
leaping out with a heartfelt joyousness which is quite irresistible. 
The sound differs in quality from that of other birds ; it is, perhaps, 
more human : a swallow-like note may be heard in some of the 
most beautiful contralto voices. The dozen or more notes com- 
posing the song end with a little jarring trill, so low as to be hardly 
audible. 



SWALLOW 



121 



A favourite site for the swallow's nest is the top of a joist sup- 
porting the rafters of a barn or other outhouse to which there is 
free access. It is a saucer-shaped rim of mud or clay, placed on 
the wood. The inside is lined with dry grass and feathers. It is 
quite open at the top, but usually close to the roof. The eggs are 
four to six in number, and vary much in shape and disposition of 
markings. They are pure white, spotted with rich coffee-brown, 
light reddish brown, and purplish grey. During incubation the 
sitting-bird is fed at intervals by her mate. 

Two broods are reared in the season, and the young arc fed for 
some days after quitting the nest. The early broods are believed 
to leave this country in advance of the adults and the young of the 
later broods. The final and principal migration takes place at the 
end of September or early in October, the birds congregating some 
days before departure in large flocks, sometimes numbering many 
thousands. 

Martin. 
Chelidon urbica. 



FIG. 45. HABIIN. natural size. 



Head, nape, and 
upper part of the back 
black, with violet re- 
flections; lower parts 
of the back and under 
parts pure white. Feet 
and toes covered with 
downy feathers ; tail 
forked. Length, five 
and a half inches. 

The martin, or 
house-martin, is as 
common and widely 
diffused in the British 
Islands as the swallow, 
and as it lives with man 
in the same way, mak- 



ing use of houses to build its nest on, it shares the affection with 
which that bird is generally regarded. Most people, in fact, regard 
them as one and the same species ; for both are of one type, and 




122 BRITISH BIKDS 

are domestic in habit, and associate together, and unless looked 
at with attention they are not seen distinctly, and consequently not 
distinguished. The martin differs from the swallow in its slightly 
smaller size ; in having its feet feathered and the rump and entire 
under parts pure white ; and in its less sharply forked tail and 
shorter wings. On the wing it is not so perfectly free as the swallow : 
it cannot double so quickly, nor fly with such speed and grace. 

The martin cannot be called a songster. His most common 
expression is a somewhat harsh note, often uttered as he sports with 
his fellows in the air ; in the pairing and nesting time he occasionally 
attempts to sing, usually when clinging to a wall and to the rim of 
his nest, and emits a slight warbling sound, somewhat guttural, and 
so low that it can only be heard at a distance of a few yards. 

He arrives in this country a little after the swallow, and imme- 
diately sets about making a new nest or repairing an old one. This 
is formed outwardly of mud or clay, and is placed under the eaves 
of a house, against the wall. He is able to build against a smooth 
brick or stucco wall, but prefers stone, which has a rougher surface. 
It is usual to find several nests near together, and the reason is, 
probably, that the surface of the wall is suitable to build on, and not, 
as is often stated, because the martins prefer to nest close to each 
other. The outer shell of the nest, like that of the swallow, is 
formed of mud or clay, mixed with hairs and fibres to strengthen it, 
and s placed against the wall at the side and the projecting eaves 
above, and forms a half or a portion of a hemisphere, a small open- 
ing being left at the top for entrance. Tne lining is composed of 
feathers and a little dry grass. Four or five pure white, unspotted 
eggs are laid. Two broods, and often three, are reared in the 
season. 

For some days after the young are able to fly the whole family 
roost at night in the nest. The young of the first brood, as in the 
case of the swallow, are the first tb migrate. The old birds and the 
young of the later broods take their departure about the middle of 
October. 

Sand-Martin. 
Cotiie riparia. 

Upper parts, cheeks, and a broad bar on the breast mouse- 
colour ; throat, fore part of the neck, belly, and under tail-coverts 
white. Legs and feet naked, with the exception of a few small 



SAND-MARTIN 123 

feathers near the insertion of the hind toe ; tail forked, rather short. 
Length, five inches. 

The sand-martin, although common enough in some localities, 
and found throughout the British Islands, including the Outer 
Hebrides and the Orkneys, is not a very well-known bird; for, 
however populous the country may be, and though other hirundines 
become increasingly domestic and breed under eaves, in porches, 
barns, and chimneys, he always preserves his original wild character. 
He is a swallow that is a stranger to man, and breeds in holes and 
crevices in precipitous cliffs on the sea-coast. But he prefers to 
excavate a breeding-hole in a perpendicular bank of clay not too 
stiff for his weak mining implements. Earth-cliffs on the banks of 
rivers and lakes and on the sea, are resorted to for this purpose, and 
he also takes advantage of the steep sides of railway-cuttings and 
sand and gravel pits. A suitable bank or cliff will often attract a 
large number of sand-martins, and the surface will appear riddled 
with their holes. It has always caused surprise in those who have 
observed this bird that it should be able With its small, weak bill to 
form such deep tunnels in the hard earth. The hole once made is, 
however, often used by the same birds for several years. They do 
not work by digging into the earth with their bills as a man digs 
with a knife or other implement. They perch against the surface 
and pick out small particles, and by means of this slow, laborious 
process accomplish their great work. The hole slants upwards, and 
is from three to four feet in length and two or three inches in 
diameter. At its extremity the gallery is widened to form a 
chamber about six inches in diameter, where the bed is made of 
dry grass, with a few feathers for lining. Male and female take 
turns in boring, working only in the morning, the rest of the day- 
light hours being spent in feeding and play. It sometimes happens 
that in boring their hole a sunken boulder or vein of unpenetrable 
earth is met with ; the hole is then abandoned and a new one begun 
in another place. By the end of May the eggs are laid. These are 
four to six in number, and are pure white. 

"When hovering before their holes, and passing to and fro with 
wavering flight along the face of the bank, the sand-martins have a 
curious moth-like appearance. "While flying about in company 
they constantly utter a low monotonous note ; and this sound is 
prolonged to a scream when the birds are excited by the presence 



124 



BRITISH BIRDS 



of some enemy. The male has, besides, a twittering song, uttered 
on the wing while hovering before the nesting-hole. 

Two broods are reared, and as soon as breeding is over the birds 
forsake the bank and scatter about the country, and may then be 
seen associating with house-martins and swallows. 

The sand-martin is the earliest of the swallows to arrive in this 
country, and the first to depart ; it is rare to meet with them after 
the middle of September. 

Tree-Creeper. 

Certhia familiaris. 

Upper parts mottled with 
yellowish brown, dark brown, 
and white ; a pale streak 
over the eye ; throat and 
breast buff-white, becoming 
dusky on the belly; wings 
brown, tipped with white, and 
barred with white, brown, 
and dull yellow; tail-feathers 
reddish brown, stiff, and 
pointed. Length, five inches. 

The little creeper appears 
to move more in a groove 
than almost any other pas- 
serine bird, and is the most 
monotonous in its life ; yet 
it never fails to interest, doubtless because in its appearance and 
actions it differs so much from other species. A smah 1 bird one of 
the very smallest with striped and mottled brown upper, and 
silvery white under, plumage ; long and slim in figure, with a slender 
curved bill and stiff, pointed tail-feathers, it spends its life on the 
boles and branches of trees, exploring the rough bark with micro- 
scopic sight for the minute insects and their eggs and larvae it sub- 
sists on, moving invariably upwards in a spiral from the roots to 
the branches by a series of rapid jerks ; its appearance as it travels 
over the surface, against which it presses so closely, is that of a 
mammal rather than a b;.rd a small mottled brown mouse with an 




Fio. 46. TREE-CREEPEB. natural size. 



TREE-CREEPER 125 

elongated body. It is more of a parasite on the trees that furnish 
it with food than any other bird of similar habits. Nuthatches and 
woodpeckers are not so dependent on their trade ; their habits and 
diet vary to some extent with the seasons and the conditions they 
exist in. The creeper is a creeper on trees all the year round, and 
extracts all his sustenance from the bark. His procedure is always 
the same : no sooner has he got to the higher and smoother part of 
the bole up which he has travelled than he detaches himself from 
it, and drops slantingly through the air to the roots of another tree, 
to begin as before. The action is always accompanied with a little 
querulous note, which falls like an exclamation, and seems to 
express disgust at the miserable harvest he has gathered, or else 
satisfaction that yet another tree in the long weary tale of trees has 
been examined and left behind. The fanciful idea is formed thai 
the creeper has not found happiness in his way of life : it is so 
laborious a way ; he must live so close to the dull-hued and always 
shaded bark, and examine it so narrowly I The contrast of such a 
method with that of other small birds warblers and wagtails, and 
swallows and finches is very great. Feeding-tune with them is 
song-time and play-tune ; their blithe voices and lively antics and 
motions show how happy they are in their lives. The creeper is a 
rather silent bird, but he utters in the pairing season a shrill, 
high-pitched call-note, and the same sound is emitted when the nest 
is in danger. The song, which is occasionally heard in spring, is 
composed of three or four shrill notes resembling the call-notes in 
sound. 

The nest is a neat and pretty structure, and is often placed 
against the trunk of a tree, behind a piece of bark that has become 
partly detached. A hole in the trunk, or in a large branch, or in a 
cavity where a portion of the wood has rotted away, is often selected 
as a site. When the nest is made behind a piece of loose bark, the 
cavity is filled up with a quantity of fine twigs. Inside, the nest is 
formed of roots, moss, and sometimes feathers, and lined with fine 
strips of inside bark. Six to nine eggs are laid, pure white, with red 
spots. Two broods are reared in a season. 



126 PETTISH BIRDS 

Goldfinch. 
Carduelis elegans. 

Back of the head, nape, and feathers round the base of the bill 
black ; forehead and throat blood-red ; cheeks, fore part of the neck, 
and under parts white; back and scapulars dark brown; wings 
variegated with black, white and yellow ; tail black, tipped with 
white. Length, five inches. 

We are rich in finches. No fewer than eighteen members of 
that family, including the snow-bunting, may be truly described as 
British. Among our passerine birds they excel in beauty of plum- 
age, and by most persons the goldfinch, in his pretty coat of many 
colours crimson, black, and white, and brown, and brilliant yellow 
is regarded as the most beautiful of all. Certainly he is the 
most elegant in shape, the most graceful and engaging in his 
motions. It is charming to watch a small flock of these finches in 
the late summer, busy feeding on the roadside, or on some patch 
of waste land where the seeds, they best love are abundant, when 
they are seen clinging in various attitudes to the stalks, deftly pick- 
ing off the thistle seed, and scattering the silvery down on the air. 
They are then pretty birds prettily occupied ; and as they pass with 
easy, undulating flight from weed to weed, with musical call-notes 
and lively twitterings, bird following bird, they appear as gay and 
volatile as they are pretty. 

They are found in suitable localities throughout England, and 
also inhabit Scotland and Ireland, but their distribution in the last 
two countries is much more local. During late summer and autumn 
they lead a gipsy life, incessantly wandering about the open country 
in search of their favourite seeds. They are also seen in whiter, 
but few remain with us throughout the year, the majority passing 
over the Channel, to winter in a warmer climate. On their return 
in spring they come to the neighbourhood of houses, and build by 
preference in an apple or cherry tree in an orchard. The nest is 
well made, and composed of a great variety of materials fine twigs, 
roots, grass, leaves, moss, and wool and lined with hairs, feathers, 
and vegetable down. The four or five eggs are white, thinly spotted 
with reddish brown and pale purple. 

As a vocalist the goldfinch does not rank high ; but his lively, 




P/,,4 7' V. GOLDFINCH, f NAT. SIZE. 



GOLDFINCH 127 

twittering song, uttered both on the perch and when passing through 
the air, and his musical call- notes, have a very pleasing effect, espe- 
cially when the birds are seen in the open country in bright, sunny 
weather. Unhappily, it is not now very easy to see them, except in 
a few favoured localities, owing to their increasing rarity. For the 
goldfinch is a favourite cage-bird, and so long as bird-catching is 
permitted to flourish without restriction, this charming species will 
continue to decrease, as it has been decreasing for the last fifty years 
and upwards. 

Siskin. - 
Chrysometris spinus. 

Crown black ; a broad yellow streak behind the eye ; the plu- 
mage variegated with grey, dusky, and various shades of green ; 
wings dusky, with a transverse greenish yellow bar, and a black 
one above, and a second black bar across the middle of the terti- 
aries ; tail dusky, the base and edge of the inner web greenish 
yellow. Female : colours less bright, and no black on the head. 
Length, four and a half inches. 

The siskin, or aberdevine, as it is also calleci, is known to us as a 
whiter visitant, but it is better known as a cage than a free bird. 
In the British Islands it breeds in various places in Scotland, in 
pine and fir woods; it has also been found breeding in various 
localities in England and Wales. In Ireland it is not so common 
as in England. The siskin is a pretty, active, musical little bird, 
somewhat tit-like in its manner of seeking its food, its sociability, 
and the various positions it assumes in its search for small insects 
and seeds in the higher branches of a tree, or when clinging to the 
terminal twigs. As a caged bird his song is a small musical twit- 
tering ; but in a wild state, in the pairing season, the male has a 
more charming performance, for he then soars about the tree, and, 
with fluttering wings and outspread tail, floats down singing to his 
perch. 

The nest is built in a pine or fir tree at a considerable height 
from the ground, and so hidden as to make it very hard to find. 
There is a legend in some districts on the continent of Europe that 
the siskin places a small stone among its eggs, which renders the 
nest invisible. This legend reminds me of a belief of the peasants 



128 BBITISH BIRDS 

of southern South America, that the rail-like, spotted tinamou a 
bird that easily eludes one's sight among the grey and yellow herb- 
age has the faculty of making itself invisible. The primitive 
mind is much given to explanations of this kind. 

The nest, placed as a rule in the fork of a horizontal branch, is 
composed of rootlets and moss, on a foundation of bents and twigs 
of heather, and is lined with fine dry grass and a little vegetable 
down, sometimes with a few feathers. Five or six eggs are laid, 
pale bluish green in ground-colour, and spotted with dark reddish 
brown and pinkish grey under-markings. 

In autumn siskins unite in small nocks and migrate south- 
ward ; and during winter they are found widely distributed over 
the country, but are most numerous in the northern counties of 
England. At this season they may be seen associating on trees 
and bushes with goldorests, redpolls, and titmice of different 
species. 

Closely allied to the siskin and goldfinch, and in its colouring 
intermediate between them, but differing in having the crown, 
nape, and chin black, is the serin (Serinus hortulanus). It breeds 
in North and Central Europe, and is only known in this country as 
a rare straggler. 

Greenfinch. 
Ligurinus chloris. 

Yellowish green variegated with yellow and ash-grey. Length, 
six inches. 

It has been a subject of mild wonder to me that the greenfinch 
is not more a favourite than I find him ; for he is almost more with 
us than any other finch, and, in most cases, to know a bird well is to 
like it. Few of our eighteen finches can be seen and heard close to 
our houses. The brambling, siskin, redpoll, crossbill, and twite are 
scattered about the country in the cold and songless season ; in 
summer we see little or nothing of them. The linnet is fairly 
abundant, but must be looked for on waste lands and commons ; 
while the goldfinch, bullfinch, hawfinch, and tree-sparrow are either 
so shy or so rare that, to most persons, they might be non-existent. 
Three of our five buntings are common enough ; but these, too, are 
birds of the open, that come little about houses, and are without 



GREENFINCH > 129 

the qualities that go to make a favourite. Of finches of the home- 
stead that possess beauty and melody there are only two the chaf- 
finch and the greenfinch ; and it is the fact that most people have 
a great esteem for the first, and pay but very slight attention to 
the second. The greenfinch is not formed on the graceful lines of 
the goldfinch and some other members of the family ; he is made 
more after the pattern of the hawfinch, and is somewhat heavy in 
appearance. Kegarding his colouring only, he is a prettier bird 
than his neighbour, the chaffinch, his plumage showing two colours 
that contrast beautifully olive-green and brilliant yellow. It is 
not often that we can see him in the proper light and position. 
He is strangely fond of concealing himself in the green foliage, 
which makes him in his green dress invisible. Seen in the shade 
or against a bright light, his colour appears dull and indeter- 
minate ; but against a background of green leaves, with the sunlight 
on him, he is certainly beautiful. 

The greenfinches are very sociable in disposition, and all the 
summer long, even when they are engaged in breeding, they may 
be seen in parties of three, or four, or half a dozen ; two or three 
nests are often found on the same branch, or in close proximity. 
The passions of jealousy and anger, so common among birds in the 
pairing season, seem not to exist in this species. As a songster he 
cannot compare with the linnet, the chaffinch, and the goldfinch, 
but he probably produces more pleasant sound than any other finch, 
unless we include the chirruping of the sparrow. He is attached to 
gardens and shrubberies, to groves and hedges, and hedgerow trees, 
especially elms, and among the clustering leaves in which he loves to 
hide he is constantly uttering his various notes, the commonest of 
which is a low and long-drawn trill. Occasionally he gives out 
another long, single note, with a very different sound, a kind of soft- 
toned, inflected scream, used sometimes as a call-note and some- 
times to express alarm ; and this he will often repeat again and 
again at short intervals. When uttering his trill, which is his 
favourite expression, among the leaves, bird answering bird with 
trills that vary in tone, he gives out from time to time another 
sound, a series of warbled notes, soft and melodious in character. 
Occasionally, in the pairing season, the male bird flies up out of 
the cloud of foliage and emits these warbling notes as he circles 
round, and descends into the midst of the leaves again. The charm 
of this perpetual summer music of the greenfinches is its airy, sub- 
dued character, as of wind-touched leaves that flutter musically. 



130 'BEITISH BIEDS 

The nest is placed among the close branches of a bush or low 
tree, and is somewhat loosely put together, straw, roots, and moss, 
mixed with wool, being used, with a lining of fibres, horsehair, and 
feathers. The eggs are four to six in number, and are white, faintly 
spotted and speckled with purplish red at the large end. The young 
are fed on seeds of various weeds and small caterpillars ; and two, 
and sometimes three, broods are reared in the season. At the end 
of summer the greenfinches repair to the fields, and are seen in 
flocks of two or three score to a hundred or more individuals, and 
are also found associating with sparrows, chaffinches, and other 
species. 

The greenfinch is a common bird throughout the British Islands. 

Hawfinch. 
Coccothraustes vulgaris. 




Fio. 47. HAWFINCH. ^ natural size. 

Lore, throat, and plumage at the base of the biH black ; crown 
and cheeks reddish brown ; nape ash-grey ; back dark reddish 
brown ; wings black ; great covets white ; under parts light purplish 
red. Length, seven inches. 



HAWFINCH 131 

The hawfinch has a somewhat curious history in this country. 
It was always believed to be an accidental autumn and winter visitor 
until, a little over half a century ago, the naturalist Doubleday, of 
Epping, discovered that it was a resident all the year round, and not 
a very rare species in that locality. Later it was found breeding in 
other places, and it is now known to inhabit all the Home Counties 
and various other parts of England. At present the belief is general 
that the bird is increasing in numbers and extending its range. This 
would seem the most natural .explanation of the fact that the bird is 
often seen now hi places where it was not seen formerly ; but it 
must be taken into consideration that nobody looked to find the 
hawfinch when it was not known to be a British species, and that 
now many sharp eyes watch for it. As it is, we are seldom rewarded 
by a sight of it, even in localities where it is known to exist, in spite 
of its conspicuous colouring and the somewhat singular appearance 
given to it by its large head and massive, conical beak. Its excessive 
wariness prevents it from being seen even when it is not rare. No 
other small bird is so shy with us, so vigilant, and quick to make 
its escape at the slightest appearance of danger. When not feeding 
it passes the time in woods, plantations, and copses, at a spot where 
the trees grow thickest and the foliage is most dense. Its love of con- 
cealing itself in the deepest shade is like that of a nocturnal species. 
When away from its obscure place of refuge it is extremely alert, 
perching in the tops of trees to survey the surrounding scene, and 
from which to drop silently into any garden or orchard which may 
be safely visited. Naturally, it has been assumed that this shy and 
watchful habit has been brought about by persecution, gardeners 
and fruit-growers being deadly enemies to hawfinches on account 
of their depredations ; but in the forests of North Africa, Mr. Charles 
Dixon found the bird just as vigilant and quick to take alarm as in 
England. 

Hawfinches are rather silent birds : when flying from tree to 
tree in small flocks they utter a call-note with a clicking sound, and 
hi spring the male sometimes emits a few low notes by way of 
song. 

The nest is placed in a tree, or bush, or hedge, a thorn being the 
tree most frequently chosen for a site. The nest is rather large 
and well made, outwardly of twigs, dead stalks, and lichen, inside 
of dry grass, and lined with rootlets and a little hair. The eggs are 
four to six in number, pale olive or bluish green in ground-colour, 
spotted with black, and irregularly streaked with dark olive. In 



182 BBITISH BIRDS 

some eggs the ground-colour is buff. The young are fed on cater- 
pillars, and only one brood is reared. After leaving the nest the 
young birds live with the parents, and sometimes several families 
unite into a flock ; as many as a hundred birds, or more, may be 
seen together. 

In autumn and winter the hawfinches feed on seeds of various 
kinds hornbeam, beech, yew, and hawthorn. The kernels only of 
the haws are eaten ; and, in like manner, cherries and other fruits are 
robbed for the sake of the kernel, the hard stones being split open 
with the powerful beak. 

House- Sparrow. 
Passer domesticus. 

Lores black ; a narrow white streak over each eye ; crown, nape, 
and lower back ash-grey ; region of the ear- coverts chestnut ; back 
chestnut-brown streaked with black ; wings brown, with white bar 
on the middle coverts ; tail dull brown ; throat and breast black ; 
cheeks and sides of neck white ; belly dull white. Length, six 
inches. Female : without the black on the throat, and upper parts 
striated dusky brown. 

More, far more, has been written about the sparrow than about 
any other bird, but as it is not advisable here to enter into the contro- 
versy on the subject of the injury he inflicts, or is believed by many 
to inflict, on the farmer and gardener, a very brief account of its 
habits will suffice. They are almost better known to most persons 
than the habits of the domestic fowl, owing to the universality of 
this little bird, to its excessive abundance in towns as well as in 
rural districts, and to its attachment to human habitations. For 
his excessive predominance there are several causes. He is exceed- 
ingly hardy, and more adaptive than other species ; his adaptive- 
ness makes it possible for him to exist and thrive in great smoky 
towns like London. He is sagacious beyond most species, and al- 
though living so constantly with or near to man, he never loses his 
suspicious habit, and of all birds is the most difficult to be trapped. 
He is very prolific : as soon as the weather becomes mild, at the 
end of February or in March, he begins to breed, and brood after 
brood is reared until September, or even till November if the weather 
proves favourable. He also possesses an advantage in his habit of 



HOUSE-SP < ARROW 133 

breeding in holes in houses, where his eggs and young are much 
safer than in trees and hedges. There is a curious diversity in his 
nesting habits : he generally prefers a hole in a wall, or some safe, 
convenient cavity, and will make vigorous war on and eject other 
species, like the house-martin, from their nests and nesting-holes ; 
but when such receptacles are not sufficiently numerous, or it ap- 
pears safe to do so, he builds in trees, making a large, conspicuous, 
oval, domed nest of straw, mixed with strings, rags, and other 
materials, and thickly lined inside with feathers. Five to six eggs 
are laid, of a pale bluish white ground-colour, spotted, blotched, or 
suffused with grey and dusky brown. The young are fed on cater- 
pillars ; and the adults also are partly insectivorous during the sum- 
mer months, but in the autumn and winter gram, seeds, and buds 
are chiefly eaten. 

Tree-Sparrow. 
Passer montanus. 

Crown and back of head chestnut-brown ; lore, ear-coverts, and 
throat black; neck almost surrounded by a white collar; upper 
parts as in the last ; wing with two transverse white bars. Length, 
five and a half inches. 

By a careless observer the tree-sparrow would, in most cases, be 
taken for the house-sparrow, and not looked directly at. When we 
know that there is a tree-sparrow, and meet with it, we notice the 
chief points in which it differs from the common species the 
chestnut-coloured head, with black and white patches at the side, 
and the double bar on the wing. 

The tree-sparrow is locally distributed throughout England and 
Scotland, but is nowhere abundant ; in Wales and Ireland it is rare. 
With us it is a shy bird, being found, as a rule, at a distance from 
houses, in fields, on the borders of woods, in thickets growing 
beside streams, and hi fir plantations. In some districts on the 
Continent it is far less shy of man, and lives in villages and towns, 
where it associates with the common sparrow, and is said to be just 
as tame. In many parts of Asia it is still more domestic. Edward 
Blyth wrote of it : 'In the great rice-exporting station of Akyab 
we have seen this species so familiarly hopping about in the public 
streets that it would only just move out of the way of the passers- 
by ; and we have also known it breeding so numerously in dwelling- 



184 BBITISH BIRDS 

houses as to be quite a nuisance from its shrill, incessant chirping.' 
This bird is the common house-sparrow of China and Japan, the 
Philippines, Burma, and more or less over the whole Malayan region. 

In its habits it is more active and lively than its more domestic 
relation, and is more at home on trees, and may be seen moving 
about among the lesser branches and twigs with much freedom, 
sometimes seeking its food there, after the manner of the siskin and 
redpoll ; but it feeds principally on the ground. It can scarcely 
be called a song-bird, its most song-like sounds being composed of 
a few chirruping notes uttered in the pairing season. Its voice, both 
in its attempted singing and in its ordinary chirp and call-notes, is 
much shriller than that of the common sparrow. 

Like that species, it breeds both in holes and on trees. A hole 
in the rotten wood of a pollard willow by the waterside is a favourite 
site, and it also nests in holes under the eaves or thatch of a barn 
or other outhouse, and hi holes in ruins, old walls, and rocks. The 
nest is made of dry grass, loosely put together, and lined with some 
soft material wool, or feathers, or hair. Four to six eggs are laid, 
bluish white in ground-colour, the whole egg thickly mottled with 
brown of different shades. Two, and even three, broods are reared 
in the season. 

In winter the tree-sparrows gather in small flocks, and are often 
found associating with the common sparrow, chaffinch, bramb- 
ling, and other species. At this season they subsist principally on 
seeds of weeds and grass, but in summer they are partly insecti- 
vorous. 

Chaffinch. 
Fringilla ccelebs. 

Forehead black ; crown and nape greyish blue ; back and 
scapulars chestnut tinged with green ; rump green ; breast 
chestnut-red, fading into white on the belly ; wings black, with 
two white bands ; coverts of the secondaries tipped with yellow ; 
tail black, the two middle feathers ash-grey, the two outer, on each 
side, black, with a broad, oblique white band. Female : head, back, 
and scapulars ash-brown tinged with olive; lower parts greyish 
white ; the transverse bands less distinct. Length, six inches. 

The chaffinch is one of the most popular song-birds in Britain ; 
it is very much with us, being universal in its distribution in this 



CHAFFINCH 185 

country, and a bird that attaches itself to the neighbourhood of 
houses, an inhabitant of gardens and orchards, and a resident 
throughout the year. He is a pretty bird, and, if not a brilliant 
songster, is at all events a very vigorous one ; his lively, ringing 
lyric, being short and composed of notes invariably repeated in the 
same order, is capable of being remembered longer and more* 
vividly reproduced in the mind than any other song. Sitting by 
the fireside in January, you can mentally hear the song of the 
chaffinch; but the brain is incapable of registering the more 
copious and varied bird-music in the same perfect way the music, 
for instance, of the skylark and thrush and garden-warbler. It is 
not strange that, when Browning wished to be back in England in 
April, he thought of the spring song of the chaffinch, before that 
of any other species. 

O to be in England 

Now that April's there ; 

And whoever wakes in England 

Sees, some morning, unaware, 

That the lowest boughs of the brushwood sheaf 

Bound the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf, 

While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough 

In England now 1 

The chaffinch makes the most of his song. He appears, indeed, 
very much in earnest in whatever he does, his character in this 
respect offering a strong contrast to that of the goldfinch, siskin, 
and various other melodists. They sing at all times, anywhere 
and anyhow. With the chaffinch, singing is a business just as 
Important as any other feeding, fighting, pairing, and building. 
He flies to a tree, and deliberately takes his stand, often on the 
most commanding twig, and there delivers his few notes with the 
utmost energy, and so rapidly that they almost run into each other, 
ending with a fine flourish. At regular intervals of a few seconds 
the performance is repeated, the bird standing erect and motionless 
all the time ; until, having given the fullest and most complete 
expression to his feelings, he flies away, to engage elsewhere in 
some task of another kind. 

It is a loud song and a joyous sound ' gay as a chaffinch ' is a 
proverbial saying of the French ; but there is also a note of defiance 
hi the song, as in the crow of a cock. Chaffinches sing, as cocks 
crow, against each other, and the music often ends in a combat. 
It is not, as some imagine, that there is a spirit of emulation in 



186 BRITISH BIRDS 

birds with regard to their singing that they are rival musicians, 
like the shepherds in the old pastorals, that contended in song for 
mastery : it is simply that the cock chaffinch, like the robin and 
some other species, is a bird of a jealous and pugnacious disposition, 
and can brook no other male chaffinch near him. Another's sing- 
ing tells him that another male is present, and his jealousy is at 
once excited. If the sound is at a distance, he will content himself 
by answering song with song ; if near, he will quickly seek out the 
singer, and drive him from his chosen ground. It is this jealous 
temper of the chaffinch that gives it value to the bird-fanciers of a 
base kind. 

The 7 chaffinch is first heard before the end of February. He 
pairs early in March, and in April begins to build. The nest is 
placed in a shrub or tree, in a cleft, or on a horizontal branch. An 
apple, pear, or cherry tree in an orchard is a favourite site ; but 
any tree, from an evergreen in a garden to the largest oak or elm, 
may be selected, and the nest may be at any height from the 
ground from half a dozen to fifty feet. It is a very beautiful 
structure, formed outwardly of lichen, moss, and dry grass, com- 
pactly woven together, and mixed with cobwebs ; the cup-shaped 
inside is lined with hair, vegetable down, and feathers. In most 
cases the outer portion of the nest is composed of materials that 
give it a close resemblance to the tree it is built on. Thus, on an 
oak or apple tree overgrown with grey lichen, or on a silver birch, 
the framework is chiefly composed of lichen ; but in deep green 
bushes evergreen moss is used. The nest is built by the female, 
but the male assists in collecting and bringing materials. A fort- 
night, or longer, is taken to complete this elaborate nest ; but from 
the beginning, and even before the nest is begun, the birds exhibit 
the greatest excitement and distress if the chosen tree is approached, 
flying round and flitting from branch to branch, incessantly utter- 
ing their well-known alarm-notes, usually spelt pirik-pvrik or spirik- 
spink, a clear, penetrating sound, slightly metallic in character; 
also another sound, a lower and somewhat harsh note of anxiety. 

The eggs are four or five in number, of a pale bluish green, 
spotted and blotched with dull purplish brown. The young are fed 
on caterpillars and small insects. The adults, too, subsist chiefly 
on insects in summer, seeking for them on the ground, and some- 
times capturing them in the air, like the flycatcher. 

In autumn the chaffinches congregate in flocks, and at this 
season the separation of the sexes, about which so much has been 



CHAFFINCH 137 

said since the days of Linnaeus, takes place. Something remains 
to be known on this subject. It is beyond dispute that large flocks 
composed entirely of birds of one sex are often met with in autumn 
and winter, both in this country and on the Continent. The 
question about which ornithologists differ is as to whether or not 
a separation of the sexes takes place among chaffinches of British 
race. Seebohm says: 'It is probable that this peculiar habit is 
confined to the birds that come to our shores in autumn ' ; and we 
have it on good authority that no separation of males from females 
takes place in the south and west of England. In the month of 
September, at one place in Scotland, I observed the male chaffinches 
gathered in small parties of three or four to a dozen individuals ; 
these were the birds belonging to the district ; but the females had 
vanished. Selby observed the same thing many years ago in 
Scotland and the north of England. One can only suppose that 
the migratory impulse is a little stronger or earlier in the female of 
this species, and that the divergence between the sexes, in this 
respect, becomes greater as we go towards the northern limit of its 
range. 

B rambling. 
Fringilla montifringilla. 

Head, cheeks, nape, and upper part of back black, the feathers 
(hi winter) tipped with light brown or ash-grey ; neck and scapulars 
pale orange-brown; wings black variegated with orange-brown 
and white ; rump and lower parts white ; the flanks reddish, with 
a few dark spots. Female: crown reddish brown, the feathers 
tipped with grey; a black streak over the eye; cheeks and neck 
ash-grey ; all the rest as in the male, but less bright. Length, six 
and a quarter inches. 

The brambling, or mountain-finch, comes nearest in relationship 
to the chaffinch, but differs very much in its glossy black, white, 
and bright buff colouring, and is a much prettier bird. We do not 
see it in its bright nuptial plumage in this country ; for it is an arctic 
species, breeding in very high latitudes, in birch woods near the 
limit of forest growth. Its nest and eggs resemble those of the 
chaffinch, the nest being a compact and beautifully shaped fabric 
that assimilates hi colour to the white and grey bark of the silver 
birch. The bramblings arrive in this country during September 



138 BRITISH BIRDS 

and October, and are found in winter throughout Great Britain and 
Ireland. They are, however, very irregular in their movements, 
and do not, like the redwings, return year after year to the same 
localities ; but, as a rule, where a flock appears in autumn, there it 
will remain until the end of winter. Beech-woods form a great 
attraction to them, beech-mast being their favourite food, and 
where it is abundant they will sometimes congregate in immense 
numbers. As a songster the brambling ranks low among the 
finches, but the lively chirping and twittering concert of a large 
flock on a tree-top, and in the evening, before the birds settle to 
roost, has a very pleasing effect. 

Linnet. 
Linota cannabina. 

Forehead and centre of the crown crimson ; the rest of the head, 
nape, and sides of the neck, mottled brownish grey ; mantle chestnut- 
brown ; whig-feathers blackish, with outer edges white, forming a 
conspicuous bar ; upper tail-coverts dark brown with whitish mar- 
gins ; tail-feathers black, narrowly edged with white on the outer 
and broadly on the inner webs ; chin and throat dull white, striped 
with greyish brown ; breast crimson ; belly dull white ; flanks fawn- 
brown. Length, five inches and three-quarters. In winter the 
crimson feathers are concealed by wide greyish margins. Female : 
duller in colour and without any crimson. 

Next to the goldfinch, the linnet is the most sought after in this 
country as a cage-bird, and the demand for linnets is no doubt 
causing a great diminution in their numbers. But they are still 
fairly abundant, and to be met with in most waste and uncultivated 
places, especially where furze-bushes abound. 

The linnet is one of the most social of the finches, being found 
gathered in small flocks and parties of three, or four, or half a dozen, 
even in the middle of the breeding season. When perched or flying 
they incessantly call to each other in sharp little chirps and twit- 
tering notes. They are more aerial in habit than most finches, 
and take to flight very readily, and fly high, with great velocity ; 
and when at a great elevation they are often seen to check their 
rapid course very suddenly, and dart away hi some other direction, 
or else to drop plumb down like falling hailstones to the earth. 
Being so free of the air, they are great rovers, and, except when 



LINNET 139 

engaged in breeding, are constantly travelling about in the open 
country at all times of the year. 

In the colour of its plumage the linnet is one of the most variable 
of birds : it is common to meet with bird-catchers and bird-fanciers 
who hear with surprise, and even with incredulity, that all these 
birds of different tints are of one species. The cock linnet never, 
or very rarely, puts on his most beautiful colours in captivity, and 
even in a state of nature the individuals composing a flock are seen 
to differ greatly. Among a dozen birds, perhaps only one will ex- 
hibit the perfect male plumage the blood-red forehead, grey head, 
rich chestnut-brown upper parts, and lovely carmine breast. There 
is one variety, known as the lemon linnet, in which the breast is 
lemon-yellow instead of carmine-red ; and there are other varieties. 
In song, too, the linnet greatly varies. When the singer is a good 
one, and listened to at a distance not exceeding twenty or thirty 
yards, the strain is sprightly, varied, and very agreeable ; but the 
sweetest part is a phrase of two or three notes which usually comes 
as a prelude to the song ; the sound has a quality that reminds one 
of the swallow's voice, but it is purer, and suggests a very delicate 
wind instrument. During the love season the male sometimes sings 
on the wing ; rising to a height of several yards, it drops slowly and 
gracefully down, uttering a series of beautiful notes and trills. 

A furze-bush is the site most often selected for the nest ; this is 
formed of fine dry grass and fibres, and lined with wool and vege- 
table down, sometimes with hair. Four to six eggs are laid, chalky 
white, and faintly tinged with blue in ground-colour, and spotted 
with light reddish brown and purplish red. 

After the breeding season the linnets unite in large flocks, and 
at this time there is a southward movement, and large numbers 
undoubtedly leave this country to winter elsewhere. But even in 
the cold season they are common enough, and their fitful winter- 
evening concerts, when they congregate on a tree-top before settling 
down for the night, are as pleasant to listen to as the love-song of 
the male heard in spring among the blossoming furze and broom. 

Lesser Redpoll. 
Linota rufescens. 

Forehead, lore, and throat black ; crown deep crimson ; upper 
parts reddish brown with dusky streaks ; wings and tail dusky, 

L 



140 



BEITISH BIEDS 



edged with pale reddish brown ; breast glossy rose-red, passing hi to 
light chestnut-brown on the sides ; belly and lower tail-coverts dull 

white. Female: less 
bright. Length, five 
and a quarter inches. 






FIG. 48. LESSER REDPOLL. natural size. 



The redpoll, or 
redpole, as it is often 
written, is a pretty and 
interesting little bird 
of the northern parts 
of Great Britain. It 
has been described by 
Seebohm as an im- 
mature linnet in ap- 
pearance, but resemb- 
ling a siskin in its 
habits, It is usually 
called the lesser red- 
poll, because it is slightly less hi size than the continental redpoll, 
which sometimes visits this country in whiter. This last sub- 
species is the mealy redpoll (Linota Unaria). A third form of 
this wide-ranging little bird, the Greenland redpoll (Linota horne- 
manni), has been included in the list of British birds on account of 
a single specimen having been obtained in this country. 

In its lively disposition, its flight, and to some extent in its lan- 
guage, the redpoll resembles the linnet ; but its feeding habits vary 
according to the season of the year and the conditions it finds itself 
in. In summer it keeps much to the higher branches of the trees, 
where it moves deftly about like a siskin or a crested tit in its search 
after minute insects and their larvae ; but in whiter it feeds princi- 
pally on seeds which it finds on the ground. It is fond of the seeds 
of the birch-tree. The appearance of a flock of redpolls feeding 
among the birches is thus described by Warde Fowler : ' It is one 
of the prettiest sights that our whole calendar of bird life affords to 
watch these tiny linnets at work in the delicate birch-boughs. 
They fear no human being, and can be approached within a very 
few yards. They almost outdo the titmice in the amazing variety 
of their postures. They prefer in a general way to be upside down, 
and decidedly object to the commonplace attitudes of more solidly 
built birds.' 



LESSER REDPOLL 141 

The song of the redpoll is described by Seebohm as a short, 
monotonous trill, clear, shrill, and not unmusical ; and he adds that 
' it might be said to resemble the rattling of loose cog-wheels.' It 
breeds in suitable localities, chiefly in birch-woods in Scotland, and in 
England north of Norfolk and Leicester. It also breeds occasionally 
in more southern localities. The nest is made of dry grass and 
moss on a foundation of slender twigs, and is well lined with vege- 
table down, or with wool and feathers. It is a very neat, cup -shaped 
nest, and contains four to six eggs, greenish blue hi ground-colour, 
with spots and specks of purplish brown. 

After the breeding season the redpolls begin to scatter about the 
country in small flocks ; as autumn approaches these flocks increase 
in size, and a southward movement begins, large numbers crossing 
the Channel. Many, however, remain to winter at home, and these 
may be met with in woods and plantations, leading a vagrant life 
in small flocks, and often associating on the trees with titmice, gold- 
crests, and siskins. 

Twite. 

Linota flavirostris. 

Upper parts dark brown, the feathers edged with light brown ; 
rump (of the male) tinged with red ; throat tawny brown ; breast 
and belly dull white, streaked on the flanks with dark brown ; beak 
yellow ; feet dark brown. Length, five and a quarter inches. 

The twite, or mountain-linnet, is a bird of the mountain and 
moorland, and of the north, being most abundant in the Hebrides ; 
but it also breeds in hilly districts throughout Scotland, and in 
suitable localities in the northern and midland counties. In the 
south it is a winter visitor, and is then found associating with the 
linnet, which it very closely resembles hi flight, habits, and- appear- 
ance ; when near it may be distinguished by its shriller voice, and 
by its longer tail, which makes it look slimmer. In its song, too, 
the twite resembles the linnet, and, like that bird, occasionally 
sings on the wing ; but its music is wanting in the finer sounds 
just as its plumage is without the lovely carmine tint of the other 
species. 

The nest is placed in a bunch of heather, or beneath it, on the 
ground, and sometimes in a furze-bush. It is made of dry grass, 



142 



BEITISH BIRDS 



moss, and wool, lined with hair and fur. The eggs are five or BIX 
in number, and are like the linnet's in colour. 

In autumn the twites unite in large flocks, and visit the stubbles 
and ploughed lands. 

Bullfinch. 
Pyrrhula europsea 




FIG. 49. BULLFINCH. natural size. 

Crown, throat, region round the beak, wings, and tail lustrous 
purple-black ; upper part of the back bluish ash ; ear-coverts, sides 
of the neck, breast, and belly red ; lower tail-coverts dull white ; a 
broad buff and grey band across the whig. Length, six and a 
quarter inches. 

The bullfinch stands out among British finches with a strange 
distinctness. He is gaily coloured, and the arrangement of colours 
is a striking one glossy black, blue-grey, and pure white above, 
and a fine red beneath. This is described in the books as ' brick- 
red ' ; and there is no doubt that, among the thousand and more 
shades of the less vivid red seen in bricks taken fresh from the kiln, 
the exact tint of the bullfinch might be matched. In the same way 
you could match the most delicate floral red that which we see in 
the spikes of the red horse-chestnut, and the almond blossom, and the 
briar rose. The earthy, uniform red of weathered bricks is not the 



BULLFINCH 143 

colour of our bird. The beauty of such a tint as that of the bullfinch 
can be best appreciated where, indeed, it is most commonly seen, 
amidst the verdure of clustering leaves ; for greens and reds, pleas- 
ing in themselves, ever make the most agreeable contrasts among 
colours. 

In its figure, too, this bird is very singular among the finches : 
his curiously arched beak gives him the look of a diminutive hawk 
in a gay plumage. 

The bullfinch is greatly persecuted by gardeners on account of 
the mischief he is supposed to do, for he has the habit of feeding on 
the flower-buds of fruit-trees in winter and spring. On the other 
hand, he is greatly esteemed as a cage-bird, and the bird-catchers 
are ever on the watch for it. But the effect in both cases is pretty 
much the same, since the hatred that slays and the love that makes 
captive are equally disastrous to the -species. There is no doubt that 
it is diminishing in this country, and that it is now a rare bird in 
most districts. Fortunately, it has a wide distribution in Great 
Britain : in Ireland, where it is said to be rare, I have found it not 
uncommon, and tamer than in England. It may be increasing there, 
which would not be strange in a country where even the magpie is 
permitted to exist, and birds generally are regarded with kindlier 
Seelings than in this country. 

The bullfinch does not often go to the ground to feed ; he gets 
most of his food on trees and bushes insects, buds, fruit, and seeds 
of various kinds. He inhabits woods, plantations, and thickets, and 
is often seen in thick hedges and in the tangled vegetation growing 
by the side of streams. Where he is not persecuted he is a tame 
and rather sedentary bird, and will allow a person to approach 
within a dozen yards before leaving his perch. His call and alarm 
note is a low, piping, musical sound, very pleasant to hear. The male 
sings in the spring, and so, it is said, does the female ; but his strain 
is short, and so feeble that it can be heard only at a distance of a few 
yards. 

The nest is built during the last half of April in a holly or yew, 
or other dense, dark bush or tree, or in a thick hedge. It is unlike 
the nest of any other finch, being outwardly a platform-shaped 
structure made of interwoven twigs, with a cup-shaped nest in the 
centre, formed of fine rootlets, the rim of the cup projecting above 
the platform it is built on. The eggs are four to six, greenish blue 
in ground-colour, spotted and sometimes streaked with dark purplish 
brown, and blotched with pinkish brown. 



144 



BEITISH BIRDS 



Bullfinches pair for life, and at all seasons of the year male and 
female are seen together ; if any young are reared, they usually re- 
main in company with the parent birds during the autumn and 
winter months. 

Nearly allied to the common bullfinch are two beautiful birds 
which have a place in our list of species. One of these is the rosy 
bullfinch (Carpodacus erythrinus), of which two or three stragglers 
have been found in England ; it breeds in Finland, and is found 
throughout the Eussian Empire. The other is the pine grossbeak 
Pinicola (enucleztor), also a rare straggler to Britain from the north 
of Europe. 

Crossbill. 
Loxia.curvirostra. 









Fia. 50. CROSSBILL. J natural size. 

Wing and tail feathers brown; all other parts green, yellow, 
orange, and tile-red, according to age and sex. Bed is the colour of 
the adult male in a state of nature, and yellow in captivity. Length, 
six inches and a half. 

The crossbills differ from all other birds in the extraordinary 
form of the parrot-like bill. In other birds, whatever the shape of 



CROSSBILL 145 

the bill may be, straight or curved, or broad and flat, or conical, or 
hooked, the two mandibles correspond, and fit when closed like box 
and lid. In this bird both mandibles have prolonged curved points, 
and cross each other, much as the two forefingers of our hands cross 
when the fingers are loosely linked together. A full description of 
this form of beak and its use as a seed-extractor, together with an 
admirably written history of the common crossbill, is contained in 
the second volume of YarrelTs great work (fourth edition). 

The crossbill is also remarkable on account of the changes of 
colour it undergoes and of the brightness of its colours. These are 
birds of the sombre pine- woods, inhabiting high latitudes ; but in their 
various greens and reds and yellows they are like tanagers and other 
tropical families, and form an exception to the rule that birds of 
brilliant plumage are restricted to regions of brilliant sunlight. 

No fewer than four species of this genus (Loxia) figure in the 
list of British birds ; three of these may be dismissed in a few 
words : 

Parrot crossbill (Loxia pittyopsittacua) breeds in the pine-forests 
of Scandinavia and northern Eussia, and is known in England as a 
rare straggler. It is scarcely distinct, specifically, from the common 
crossbill. 

White- winged crossbill (Loxia leucopUra), a North American 
species, once obtained in England. 

Two-barred crossbill (Loxia bifasdata) a Siberian species ; a 
rare straggler to England and Ireland. 

The fourth species (the common crossbill) has a better title to 
figure as a British species, and its winter visits to this country are 
much more frequent, although irregular ; and it also breeds with us 
hi some localities in Scotland, probably every year, and has also 
bred intermittingly in many districts in England, even so far south 
as Bournemouth. The reason of its irregularity in visiting our 
shores is that the crossbill is one of those species that do not go 
farther from home than they are compelled by severe cold and scarcity 
of food. Driven from home they become ' gipsy migrants,' and may 
be very abundant with us one year, and not one appear the following 
season, or for several seasons. At all times of the year the cross- 
bill is gregarious in its habits. Throughout the summer it is seen 
in small parties ; when the breeding season is over these begin to 
move about, accompanied by the young birds, and join with other 
parties, and as the season progresses the flock grows by process of 
accretion until it may number many hundreds. At this season they 



146 BBITISH BIRDS 

are remarkably tame, and will allow a person to approach within a 
few yards and admire their colours and various motions as they 
cling to and climb, parrot-like, about the twigs in search of seed and 
fruit. When flying they call to each other with a loud shrill note, 
and in late winter and spring both male and female utter a low 
warbling song. 

The nest is placed in a pine-tree, at a distance from the ground of 
from five to forty feet ; it is formed outwardly of twigs, roots, and dry 
grass ; the inner part, of wool, hair, and feathers. Four or five eggs 
are laid, white or greenish white in ground-colour, spotted with 
reddish brown, with under-markings cf pale brown. 

Corn-Bunting. 
Emberiza miliaria. 

Upper parts yellowish brown with dusky spots ; under parts 
yellowish white ppotted and streaked with dusky. Length, seven 
and a half inches. 

The present species is the largest of our five buntings, and is the 
most generally diffused throughout the British Islands. ' It is often 
called the common bunting, but is scarcely deserving of the name, 
as in most places it is less common than the yellow bunting. It is 
certainly more local than that bird, although in some localities, 
both in the south and north of England, it is more numerous than 
any other bird of its genus. Nor is its other name of corn-bunting 
more strictly accurate, for though it is a frequenter of corn-fields hi 
spring and summer, it is equally partial to hay-meadows, commons, 
and other open places. Like the skylark, it loves an open sky and 
a wide horizon ; but, not being able to soar, it seeks an elevation of 
some kind to perch on a hedge-top, or the summit of a bush, or a 
tall weed in the middle of a field of corn, will serve it ; but, best of 
all, it loves a telegraph-wire, where it sits on high above the world, 
in sunshine and wind, and without the slightest exertion is able to 
experience agreeable sensations like those of the kestrel, lark, or 
tern, when suspended motionless in mid-air. On a telegraph-wire 
it will sit contentedly by the hour, delivering its song at regular 
intervals. 

The buntings all those included in the genus Emberiza differ 
from other finches in their more sedentary habits and heavier 



COBN-BUNTING 147 

motions. The present species is the heaviest and most sedentary of 
all, and on this account, and also on account of its dull plumage, 
and because its voice is not melodious, it has been usually described 
in somewhat depreciatory terms. Yarrell speaks of its droning, 
harsh, unmusical song ; and Warde Fowler thus describes it in his 
delightful book, ' A Year with the Birds ' : ' Look at the common 
corn-bunting, as he sits on the wires or the hedge-top : he is lumpy, 
loose-feathered, spiritless, and flies off with his legs hanging down, 
and without a trace of agility or vivacity ; he is a dull bird, and 
seems to know it. Even his voice is half-hearted, and reminds me 
often of an old man in our village who used to tell us that he had 
a wheezing in his pipes.' This is a pretty description; but it 
makes the homely bunting a little too homely, and the critical 
remarks on its singing are not quite satisfactory : the song is not 
droning, and not half-hearted. Heard at intervals in the open, sunny 
fields and pasture-lands, it somehow has a pleasant effect. It is a 
peculiar sound, not easily describable. The song begins with two or 
three vigorous and musical chirps, then all at once the bird seems 
to lose himself as a musician, and throws out all that remains of 
his song in a burst of confused sound. In character it is some- 
what like the sharp note of alarm, or excitement of some kind, 
often uttered in spring by the skylark as he flies low above the field, 
but id sharper and more prolonged. Eobert Gray wrote : ' It puts 
you in mind of the jingling of a chain or the sound of breaking 
glass.' It is certainly like breaking glass. You can imitate it by 
tightly pressing a handful of polished pebbles together, which pro- 
duce, as they slide over each other, a variety of sharp and scraping 
sounds. It is a peculiarity of the song that it is like several sounds 
emitted simultaneously, as of a note broken up into splinters, or 
issuing from a bundle of minute windpipes instead of out of one of 
larger size. 

Of all the birds that remain with us throughout the year, the 
bunting is the latest to breed, the nest being usually built in May. 
It is placed among grass and herbage close to the ground, and 
formed of dry grass and fibrous roots, lined with horsehair and fine 
fibres. Four to six eggs are laid, dull purplish white or pale yellow- 
ish in ground-colour, blotched and streaked with dark brown, with 
some patches of a dull lavender hue. 

The bunting feeds on seeds and gram and insects. In autumn 
it becomes gregarious, and visits the stubbles and rickyards, where 
it is seen associating with sparrows, greenfinches, and chaffinches. 



143 



BEITISH BIRDS 



Yellowhammer. 
Emberiza citrinella. 




FIG. 51. YELLOWHAMMEB. natural size. 



Head, neck, breast, and under parts bright yellow, more or less 
streaked with dusky; flanks streaked with brownish red; upper 
parts reddish brown spotted with dusky. Female: the yellow 
parts less bright, and spotted with dull reddish brown. Length, 
six and a quarter inches. 

The yellowhammer, or yellow bunting, is one of the most gene- 
rally diffused species in the British Islands, and, on account of its 
habit of always perching on the summit of a bush or other elevation, 
and of its bright yellow head and neck, which make it conspicuous 
at a distance, it is a familiar object to every person in the rural dis- 
tricts. It differs from the corn-bunting both in a brighter colour- 
ing and in a slimmer and more graceful figure. But it is a heavy 
bird nevertheless, of a sedentary disposition, and during the warm 



YELLOWHAMMER 149 

season spends a great portion of its time in sitting upright and 
motionless on its perch, uttering its song at regular intervals. 

This species affects rough commons and waste lands in preference 
to fields, and where he is found you may hear his song at all times 
of the day, even during the sultriest hours ; for although the yellow 
hammer remains with us throughout the year, and is able to resist 
the colds of winter, he is a great lover of heat. The song is very 
different from that of the species last described : it is composed of 
half a dozen or more short, reedy notes, all exactly alike, and shaken 
out, as it were, in a hurry, followed by a long, thin note, or by two 
notes, slightly melodious in character. It may be described as a 
trivial and monotonous song, but it is a summer sound which most 
people hear with pleasure, and the yellowhammer, or ' little-bit-of- 
bread-and-no-c-h-e-e-s-e,' as it is called in imitation of its note, is 
something of a favourite with country-people. The rustics have a 
story about the origin of the bread-and-no- cheese name, which they 
think very laughable ; and one is certainly very much amused at the 
manner in which it is usually told. This is ponderous and slow, and 
strikes one as highly incongruous, the subject being only a childish 
legend about a little bird. 

According to Yarrell, the Scotch peasants have some curious 
superstitions about the yellow yoldring, as they call it. To them 
its song sounds like the words ' Deil, deil, deil tak ye,' and the bird 
itself is supposed to be on very familiar terms with the evil being 
whose name it invokes so freely, and who supplies it on a May 
morning with a drop of his own blood with which to paint its 
curiously marked eggs. 

About the middle of April the yellowhammer builds its nest, on 
or above the ground, among furze and bramble bushes, or at the roots 
of a hedge, or in a bank among grass and nettles. The nest is large 
but neatly made, outwardly of dry grass, stalks, roots, and moss, 
the inside being lined with fibres and horsehair. The eggs are four 
or five in number, purplish white in ground-colour, streaked and 
veined with deep reddish purple, with violet-grey under-markings. 

The young males acquire the bright yellow head of the adult bird 
at the autumn moult. 

Although this bird remains with us throughout the year, it has 
a partial migration. In autumn and winter it is seen in small flocks, 
often feeding in company with the common bunting and other 
finches. In winter its food consists principally of seeds ; in sumrnei 
it subsists largely, and feeds its young exclusively, on insects. 



150 



BRITISH BIRDS 



Cirl Bunting. 
Emberiza cirlus. 




FIG. 52. CIRL BUNTING. natural size. 

Crown olive streaked with black ; throat, neck, and band across 
the eye black ; gorget and band above and below the eye bright 
yellow ; breast olive-grey, bounded at the sides by chestnut ; belly 
dull yellow ; back brownish red with dusky spots. Female : the 
distinct patches of black and yellow wanting ; the dusky spots on 
the back larger. Length, six and a half inches. 

This bird, in its dress of many colours chestnut-brown, olive, 
black and white, and lemon-yellow is the handsomest of the British 
buntings. It is an uncommon species, being restricted to the 
southern and western counties of England, and exceedingly local in 
its distribution. It is, moreover, of a shy disposition, and hides from 
sight in tall trees ; consequently it is seldom seen, and is known to 
few persons. It is resident all the year. Its winter movements, if 
it has any, are not known. The curious fact about this bunting 
is that its breeding-places, which form small isolated areas, chiefly 
on or near the south-western coast, remain year after year un- 
changed. The birds do not nest outside of the old limits, nor do 
they form fresh colonies in other suitable places. 

Hedgerow- elms, and other large trees growing near fields, are 



CIEL BUNTING 



151 



favourite resorts of the cirl bunting, and the male takes his stand to 
sing on a tree-top, just as the yellowhammer does on a furze-bush or 
hedge-top. His song comes nearest in character to that of the species 
just named, being composed of several rapidly uttered, short notes, 
only brighter and more vigorous ; but the song is without the long, 
thin note with which the more common species ends his slight 
strain. In its nesting habits and in the colour of its eggs it is like 
the yellowhammer, but its young are fed almost wholly on young 
grasshoppers. 

In summer the cirl bunting lives chiefly on insects, but in 
autumn and winter it is, like other finches, a seed-eater, and at this 
season unites in small flocks, and occasionally associates with birds 
of other species 

Reed-Bunting. 

Emberiza schoeniclus. 



Head, throat, and 
gorget black (in winter 
speckled with light 
brown) ; nape, sides of 
the neck, and a line 
extending to the base 
of the beak white ; 
upper parts variegated 
with reddish brown 
and dusky ; under 
parts white streaked 
with dusky on the 
flanks. Female: head 
reddish brown with 
dusky spots ; the white 
on the neck less dis- 
tinct ; under parts 
reddish white, with 
dusky spots. Length, 
six inches. 




Fio. 53. BEED-BUNTINQ. natural size. 



The reed-bunting, although by no means an uncommon bird, is 
not nearly so common as either the corn-bunting or yellowhammer. 
It is a bird of the waterside, and its spring and summer life is passed 



152 BRITISH BIBD8 

among the reeds and aquatic herbage and willows and alders growing 
on the margins of streams and marshes. It is widely distributed, 
and, where suitable localities exist, may be looked for with some 
confidence. In most districts it is known as the reed- sparrow, and 
in its colouring and general appearance it is undoubtedly more 
sparrow-like than the other buntings. From its black head, which 
is very conspicuous by contrast with the white collar, it is often 
called the black-headed bunting, a name which more properly be- 
longs to a continental species to be noticed later on as an acci- 
dental visitor to this country. The male is a persistent singer in 
the spring months, and, perched near the top of a reed, or on the 
topmost branch of an alder tree, he will repeat at intervals his slight 
reedy song of four or five notes, the last somewhat prolonged. If 
disturbed, he will fly a little distance ahead and perch again ; and 
this action he will repeat two or three times if followed up ; then, 
doubling back, he will return to the first spot. He is a sprightlier 
bird than the other buntings. The slender reed-stems he perches on, 
which bend and sway beneath the slightest weight, have taught him 
easier and more graceful motions, although in that respect he can- 
not compare with the bearded tit. 

The nest is made near the water, on or close to the ground, under 
a bush or bunch of rushes, and is composed of dry grass and leaves 
and stems of aquatic plants, and lined with fibrous roots and horse- 
hair. The eggs are four or five in number, in ground-colour dull white 
or grey, spotted and streaked with purplish brown and dull grey. 

The reed-bunting remains in this country all the year, but in 
severe weather leaves the wet, low ground, and is then seen among 
the flocks of mixed finches in fields and in the neighbourhood of 
farmhouses. 

Snow-Bunting. 
Plectrophanes nivalis. 

Head, neck, portion of the wings and under parts white ; upper 
parts black, tinged here and there with red. In whiter the white 
of the head and the black on the back mixed with reddish brown. 
Female : the white on the head and upper parts mottled with dusky, 
and her colours not so pure. Length, six inches and three-quarters. 

The snow-bunting, or snowflake, as it is also called, breeds regu- 
larly in some localities in the Highlands of Scotland, and may there- 



SNOW-BUNTING 153 

fore be regarded as an indigenous species; but the birds breeding 
within British limits are only a few pairs, and the snow-bunting is 
best known as a winter visitor from more northern regions. They 
appear on our coasts in the month of October, sometimes in immense 
flocks, to pass the whiter, for the most part in the neighbourhood of 
the sea, seeking their food in fields and on waste lands. Occasion- 
ally these flocks penetrate to the more inland districts. Being 
very pretty and lively little birds, they are great favourites in the 
places they visit ; and their appearance is all the more welcome on 
account of the desolate aspect of nature in the districts where they 
are most abundant. Many ornithologists have written lovingly 
about the snow-bunting. Thus, Saxby says : ' Seen against a dark 
hillside or a lowering sky, a flock of these birds presents an exceed- 
ingly beautiful appearance, and it may then be seen how aptly the 
term " snowflake " has been applied to the species. I am acquainted 
with no more pleasing combination of sight and sound than that 
afforded when a cloud of these birds, backed by a dark grey sky, 
descends, as it were, in a shower to the ground, to the music of their 
own sweet, tinkling notes.' 

The fullest, and by far the most interesting, account ever given 
of the snow-bunting is by Seebohm. He says that in its habits it 
is the most arctic of the small birds, breeding as far north as latitude 
82 83'. Its appearance is thus described : * In sledging over the 
snow across the steppes of South-western Siberia from Ekaterran- 
burg to Tomsk, a distance of about a thousand miles, the snow- 
bunting was the only bird we saw, except a few sparrows, jackdaws, 
and hooded crows near the villages. The snow-buntings were in 
small flocks, and many of them had almost lost their whiter dress. 
It was a charming sight to watch them flitting before the sledge, as 
we disturbed them at their meals. Sometimes, in the sunshine, their 
white bodies were invisible against the white snow, and we could 
almost fancy that a flock of black butterflies was dancing before us. 
The flight of the snow-bunting is peculiar, and is somewhat like that 
of a butterfly, as if the bird altered its mind every few seconds as to 
which direction it wished to take.* 

Of its song he says : * Whilst the female is busy with the duties 
of incubation the male sings freely, sometimes as he sits upon the 
top of a rock, but often flinging himself into the air like a shuttle- 
cock, and then descending in a spiral curve, with wings and tail 
expanded, singing all the time. The song is a low and melodious 
warbling, not unlike that of the shore -lark.' 



154 BEIT1SH BIRDS 

The nest is placed in crevices of rocks, and is made of dry grass, 
roots, and moss, lined with root-fibres, hair, wool, and feathers. Five 
or six, sometimes seven, eggs are laid, in ground-colour greyish white 
or pale blue, spotted and blotched with reddish brown, with under- 
markings of pale brown and pale grey. 

The young are fed on the larvce of gnats. In winter the snow- 
buntings feed on seeds of grass and weeds. 

Besides the five buntings described, five more species figure in 
the list of British birds, and these may now be briefly noticed : 

Black-headed bunting (Emberiza melanocephala), inhabiting 
South-eastern Europe ; a single specimen has been obtained in this 
country. 

Ortolan bunting (Emberiza hortulana). A summer visitor to 
Europe. Several specimens have been obtained in the British 
Islands, mostly in the south and east of England. 

Bustic bunting (Emberiza rustled). Breeds in North-eastern 
Europe and Northern Siberia. A rare straggler to Britain. 

Little bunting (Emberiza pusilla), from North-eastern Europe 
and Siberia. Has been taken once in England. 

Lapland bunting (Calcariuslapponica).K circumpolar species 
breeding in the arctic regions. Occasionally straggles to this 
country. 

Starling. 
Sturnus vulgaris. 

Black with purple and green reflections, the upper feathers tipped 
with pale buff; under tail-coverts edged with white; beak yellow; 
feet flesh-colour tinged with brown. Female: spotted below as 
well as above. Yoimg : uniform ash-brown, unspotted. Length, 
eight and a half inches. 

A compactly built bird with a short, square tail, strong legs and 
feet, and a long, sharp beak, the starling does not excel in beauty 
of figure or grace of carriage ; his lines are rather indicative of 
strength ; he looks what he is a plodding digger in the meadows 
and pastures, a hardy bird of rook-like habits, able to stand all 
weathers. But he has a beautiful coat. As in the case of the large 
corvine species he so frequently associates with when feeding, his 
richly coloured plumage has a gloss which causes it to shine at 
times like polished metal in the sunlight. The starling has an added 
distinction in the spangling of white and buff on the upper parts. 



STABLING 155 

During the greater portion of the year his food consists almost 
entirely of insects in their different stages. Like the rook, he 
searches at the roots of the grass for worms and grubs ; and 
there is no doubt that he deserves his reputation of one of the 
farmer's feathered helpers. He attends the sheep and cattle in the 
meadows, and is often seen perching on their backs ; the animals 
take it quietly, and perhaps know that he is on the look-out for 
ticks, which are a source of irritation to them. 

Although a digger and plodder, the starling is very different 
from his companion, the rook, in manner. The rooks are seen 
soberly marching about, quartering the ground, each one intent on 
finding something for himself. The starlings are not nearly so 
methodical ; they run about a great deal on the feeding-ground, 
and watch and interfere with each other. When one by chance 
finds a rich treasure, the others are eager to share it, and there are 
occasional scolding matches, and sometimes downright quarrelling, 
among them. 

The starling is also a fruit-eater, particularly of cherries ; and 
in winter, when insect food is scarce, he will eat berries, seeds, and 
gram, and, like the blackbird and blue tit, may be easily attracted 
to the house with scraps of animal food. 

The nesting habits of the starling contribute to make it one of 
our most familiar birds. He breeds in holes, and a hole in a tree 
or rock, in a cliff or quarry, suits him very well ; but he more often 
finds a suitable place under the eaves of a house, or in a barn, or 
church-tower, or other building; and, unless disturbed, he will 
continue to use the same site year after year. As early as January 
the starlings begin to pay occasional visits to the breeding-site, but 
they do not build until April. The nest is composed of a large 
quantity of dry grass, small twigs, moss, and other materials, and 
is sometimes lined with wool or feathers. Four to seven eggs are 
laid five being the usual number of a delicate pale greenish 
blue colour, and unspotted. 

The starling sings more or less all the year, but his song is at 
its best in the spring months. He has no such melodious notes as 
distinguish the warblers ; his merit lies less in the quality of the 
sounds he utters than in their endless variety. In a leisurely way 
he will sometimes ramble on for an hour, whistling and warbling 
very agreeably, mingling his finer notes with chatterings and 
duckings and squealings, and sounds as of snapping the fingers 
and of kissing, with many others quite indescribable. On account 

M 



156 BEITISH BIEDS 

of this variety of language he has always been reputed a mimic ; 
but he does not mock as the mocking-bird does : he never repro- 
duces the song of any other songster. Notes and phrases, and 
calls and alarm-notes, he has apparently picked up, and, listening, 
you recognise this or that species ; but the imitations are seldom 
perfect, and in the end you are almost inclined to believe that he 
is called a mimic only because his variety is so great. 

After the breeding season the young and old birds feed together 
in the pastures, where they unite with other families; and the 
flocks thus formed, as they increase in size, extend their wander- 
ings over the surrounding country. Like rooks, they have favourite 
roosting-places, to which they return annually ; these are reed and 
osier beds, thickets of holly and other evergreens, and fir-planta- 
tions. But they are not so constant in their attachment to one 
locality as the rook. They are more vagrant in their habits, and 
shift their ground, and migrate, and their numbers may vary 
greatly from year to year in the same district. In a district 
where they are abundant, they are seen at the end of each day 
gathering from all directions to the roosting-place ; and it is then 
that the * cloud of starlings ' may be seen at its best, and it is 
certainly one of the finest sights that bird life presents in England. 
At intervals, after the birds have been steadily pouring in their 
flocks for a couple of hours, the whole vast concourse rises, and, 
seen from a distance, the flock, composed of tens and hundreds of 
thousands, may then be easily mistaken for a long black cloud sus- 
pended above the wood. In a few moments it is seen to grow 
thin, as the flock scatters, until it almost fades away. Suddenly it 
darkens again ; and so on, alternately, the form, too, changing 
continually, now extending to an immense length across the sky, 
like a long bar of vapour, and now gathered into a huge oval or 
oblong black mass ; and by-and-by the cloud again empties itself 
into the trees, and the sky is clear once more. These evolutions 
are repeated many times, until, as the evening draws on, the birds 
finally settle down in their places, but not to sleep ; for an hour 
longer the wood is filled -with an indescribable noise a tangle of 
ten thousand penetrative voices, all together whistling, chattering, 
scolding, and singing. 

We have but one starling ; an allied species, the beautiful rose- 
coloured pastor (Pastor roseus), which breeds in Western Asia, is an 
irregular visitor to all parts of England. 



CHOUOE 



167 



Chough. 

Pyrrhocorax graculus. 




Fio. 54. CHOUGH. natural size. 

Black with purple and green reflections ; beak and feet coral- 
red. Length, sixteen inches. 

It is melancholy to think that this interesting and extremely 
handsome bird has been diminishing in numbers for a long period, 
and is now become so rare that, unless strong measures to secure its 
protection be at once taken, its eventual extinction in this country 
must be regarded as merely a question of time. Formerly it bred 
in many inland localities in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland ; 
but from all its ancient nesting-cliffs hi the ulterior of these countries 
it has long vanished, and, like the raven, which has also, fallen on 
evil days, is now only found hi a few spots on the rock-bound coasts 
where high, precipitous cliffs afford it some chance of hatching its 
eggs and continuing the species for a few years longer. 

A few pairs are still found breeding each year on the coast of 
Cornwall, where it was formerly abundant, and on this account was 
called the Cornish chough. It also breeds in limited numbers in a 
few other situations : at Lundy Island, the rocks of the Calf of 



158 BRITISH BIRDS 

Man, on the coast of Wales, and at Islay and a few other situations 
on the coast of Scotland. 

In size, flight, language, habits, and general appearance, the 
chough comes nearest to the jackdaw, but is a much handsomer bird, 
its uniform intense black plumage and long, curved, coral bill, and 
red legs and feet, giving it a distinguished and somewhat singular 
appearance. Its cry, uttered both when perched and on the wing, 
differs only from that of the daw in its more ringing and melodious 
sound. The flight is easy and buoyant, and the birds are fond of 
aerial pastimes, similar to those of the jackdaw, during which the 
members of the company pursue one another in play, and frequently 
tumble down from a great height through the air as if disabled 
They feed inland, often going long distances from the cliffs they 
inhabit to seek their food, like rooks, in the meadows and 
pasture-lands. They also follow the plough to pick up the worms 
and grubs, like the rook and black-headed gull, and are said to eat 
carrion, berries, and grain. On the sands and rocks they feed on 
the animal refuse left by the tides. 

The chough, like the daw, lives always in communities ; the two 
species may often be found breeding near each other and associating 
in flocks. The nest is placed in a hole or crevice in the rocks in 
the least accessible part of the cliff. It is built of sticks and twigs, 
and lined with grass, fur, wool, and other soft substances. Four 
to six eggs are laid, in ground-colour white, faintly tinged with blue 
or yellowish, and spotted and blotched with various shades of grey 
and pale brown. 

Jay. 

Gamilus glandarius. 

Crest greyish white streaked with black; a black moustache 
from the corners of the beak ; general plumage reddish grey, darker 
above ; primaries dingy black ; secondaries velvet-black and pure 
white ; inner tertials rich chestnut ; winglet and greater coverts 
barred with black, white, and bright blue ; upper and under-tail- 
coverts pure white ; iris bright blue ; beak black ; feet dark brown. 
Length, thirteen and a half inches. 

The jay is nearly equal to the daw in size, and has a variegated 
and beautiful plumage, and when seen flying across an open sunlit 
space is nearly as conspicuous as a magpie. But among the dense 



JAY 159 

foliage of the woods and thickets he inhabits it is as difficult to 
see a jay as a wood- wren ; and it is doubtless owing to this fact, and 
to his extreme wariness and cunning, that he still survives in 
many parts of England where the magpie has now been extirpated, 
although both species are pursued by gamekeepers with the same 
stupid and deadly animosity. In Scotland he is said to be de- 
creasing more rapidly than in England, probably because the Scotch 
are more thorough than the Southrons, especially in the process of 
stamping out : hi Ireland it is found only in the southern half of 
the island, where it is somewhat scarce. 

The most striking characteristic of the jay is its tireless energy, 
and a liveliness of disposition and alertness almost without a 
parallel among British birds ; even the restless, prying, chattering 
magpie seems a quiet creature beside it ; and as to the other corvine 
birds, they are by comparison a sedate family. Like the magpie, 
he is an excitable and vociferous bird, and has a curious and varied 
language. When disturbed in his woodland haunts he utters a 
scream that startles the hearer, so loud and harsh and piercing is it. 
Richard Jefferies well describes it as being like the sound made in 
tearing a piece of calico. He also has a lower, monotonous, rasping 
note, which he will continue uttering for half an hour at a time 
when his curiosity or suspicion has been excited. In the love 
season he utters a variety of sounds by way of song, and as they 
resemble the notes of the starling, sparrow, and other birds, he is 
supposed to be a mocker. In captivity he can be taught to speak a 
few words ; but it is possible that the various sounds composing his 
vocal performance in the woods are his own. 

In spring he becomes somewhat social, and unites in noisy 
parties ; at other times he is solitary, or lives with his mate. 

Owing to an excessively wary and suspicious habit, engendered 
by much persecution, it is difficult to observe him narrowly for any 
length of time. In the woods and plantations, few and far between, 
where jays are not persecuted, and do not associate the human 
figure with a sudden shower of murderous pellets, he will allow a 
nearer approach, and it is then a rare pleasure to study him on his 
perch. He does not, as a rule, rest long in one place, and when 
perched is of so active and excitable a temper that he cannot keep still 
for three seconds at a stretch. The wings and tail are raised, and 
depressed, and flirted, the crest alternately lowered and elevated, 
the head turned from side to side, as the wild, bright eyes glance in 
this or that direction. If he should by chance place himself where 



160 BEITISH BIBDS 

a stray sunbeam falls through the foliage on him, lighting up hia 
fine reddish brown plumage, variegated with black and white and 
beautiful blue, he shows as one of the handsomest birds that 
inhabit the woodlands. 

The jay makes his nest in a bush or sapling at no great height 
from the ground ; the lower branch of a large tree is sometimes 
made choice of, where the nest is well concealed by the close 
foliage; a thick holly or other evergreen is also a favourite site. 
The nest is built of sticks and twigs, sometimes mixed with mud, 
and the cup- shaped cavity is lined with fine roots. Four to seven 
eggs are laid, pale greyish green in ground-colour, thickly freckled, 
and spotted all over with pale olive-brown. The young birds follow 
their parents for some weeks after leaving the nest. 

The jay is omnivorous, but in summer feeds mainly on slugs, 
worms, grubs, and insects of all kinds ; hi this season he devours 
berries and fruit plums, cherries, also peas and currants ; and in 
autumn, nuts, beech-mast, and acorns. He also plunders the 
smaller birds of their eggs and young, and is said to carry off 
pheasant and partridge chicks. He is a keen mouser, and after 
killing a mouse with two or three sharp blows on the head, strips 
the skin off before devouring it. Like the nuthatch and some other 
species, he has the habit of concealing the food he does not want to 
eat at once. 

Magpie. 
Pica rustica. 

Head, throat, neck, and back velvet-black ; scapulars and under 
plumage white ; tail much graduated, and, as well as the wings, 
black, with lustrous blue and green reflections ; beak and feet black. 
Length, eighteen inches. 

In spite of his evil reputation, the magpie is regarded by most 
persons who are not breeders of pheasants with exceptional interest, 
and even affection. He has some very attractive qualities, and is 
one of that trio of corvine birds pie, chough, and jay from which 
it is difficult to single out the most beautiful. The most conspicuous 
he undoubtedly is, hi his black and white plumage ; and his figure, 
with its long, graduated tail, is also the most elegant. In his 
habits {here is abundant variety, and in sagacity he is probably un- 
surpassed by any member of the corvine family, which counts so 
many wily brains. His excessive cunning and rapid rate of increase 



MAGPIE 



161 



have probably served to save him from the fate that has overtaken 
the hen harrier and marsh-harrier, and many another beautiful 
member of the British avifauna. As it is, he has been almost extir- 
pated throughout a large part of England and Scotland. In Ireland, 
however, he is still a common species, but, oddly enough, he is not 
indigenous to that country. It is believed that he first appeared 




FIG. 55. MAGPIE. natural size. , 

there about, or a little more than, two centuries and a half ago. 
How he got there is not known. According to Yarrell, there is a 
widespread belief in Ireland that the magpie was imported into 
that island by the English out of spite. 

The magpie is as singular hi his motions, gestures, and flight as 
he is beautiful in colour and elegant in form. On the whig he 
appears most conspicuous when the white webs of the quills are 
displayed. The wings are very short, and the flight is slow and 
somewhat wavering, and at every three or four yards there is an 
interval of violent wing-beats, during which the black and white of 
the quills mix and become nearly grey. High in the air he has a 
most curious appearance ; as a rule he flies low, passing from tree 
to tree, or along tho Hide of a hedge. He seeks his food on the 



162 BEITISH BIEDS 

ground, and his movements are then utterly unlike those 01 any other 
ground-feeder. His manner of running and hopping about, flinging 
up his tail ; his antics and little, excited dashes, now to this side, 
now to that, give the idea that he is amusing himself with some 
solitary game rather than seeking food. Eichard Jefferies has given 
so accurate and vivid a picture of the bird in his ' Wild Life in a 
Southern County ' that I cannot refrain from quoting it in this 
place. ' To this hedge the hill-magpie comes ; some magpies seem 
to keep entirely to the downs, while others range the vale, though 
there is no apparent difference between them. His peculiar uneven, 
and, so to say, flickering flight marks him out at a distance, as he 
jauntily journeys along beside the slope. He visits every fir-copse 
and beech-clump in his way, spending some time, too, in and about 
the hawthorn hedge, which is a favourite spot. Sometimes in the 
spring, when the corn is yet short and green, if you glance carefully 
through an opening in the bushes, or round the side of the gateway, 
you may see him busy on the ground. His rather excitable nature 
betrays itself in every motion : he walks, now to the right a couple 
of yards, now to the left in quick zigzag, so working across the field 
towards you ; then, with a long rush, he makes a lengthy traverse 
at the top of his speed ; turns, and darts away again at right angles ; 
and presently up goes his tail, and he throws his head down with a 
jerk of the whole body, as if he would thrust his beak deep into the 
earth. This habit of searching the field, apparently for some 
favourite grub, is evidence in his favour that he is not so entirely 
guilty as he has been represented of innocent blood. No bird could 
be approached in that way. All is done in a jerky, nervous manner. 
As he turns sideways, the white feathers show with a flash above 
the green corn ; another moment, and he looks all black.' 

In disposition the magpie is restless, inquisitive, excitable, and 
loquacious. Where he is greatly persecuted by gamekeepers as, 
indeed, is the case almost everywhere in England he grows so 
wary that, in spite of his conspicuous colouring, it would be almost 
Impossible to get a glimpse of him, were it not for his outbursts of 
irrepressible excitement and garrulity. The sight of a stoat, fox, or 
prowling cat will instantly cause him to forget the more dangerous 
keeper and his gun, and to fill the coppice with cries of alarm. 
The feathered inhabitants of the wood hurry from all sides to 
ascertain the cause of the outcry, and assist in driving out the 
intruder. But the keeper, too, hears ; this is the opportunity he 
has been long watching and waiting for ; and if he approaches the 



MAGPIE 163 

scene of excitement with due caution, poor beautiful Mag, dead, and 
shattered with shot, will soon be added to his festering trophies. 

The usual sound emitted by the magpie is an excited chatter a 
note with a hard, percussive sound, rapidly repeated half a dozen 
times. It may be compared to the sound of a wooden rattle, or to 
the bleating of a goat ; but there is always a certain resemblance to 
the human voice in it, especially when the birds are unalarmed, and 
converse with one another in subdued tones. But it is more like 
the guttural voice of the negro than the white man's voice. Their 
subdued chatter has sometimes produced in me the idea that I was 
listening to the low talking and laughing of a couple of negroes 
lying on their backs somewhere near. It is well known that this 
bird can be taught to articulate a few words. 

The magpie is a notable architect, and as a rule builds his nest 
in a tall tree in or on the borders of a wood ; sometimes in a low, 
isolated tree or large bush, or in the centre of a thick hedge. It is 
large, and formed of sticks and mud, with a hollow in the centre, 
plastered with mud and lined with fibrous roots ; over this solid 
platform and nest a large dome of loosely interwoven thorny sticks 
is built, with a hole in the side just large enough to admit the bird. 

Magpies pair for life, and the nest may serve the birds for several 
years, a little repairing work being bestowed on it each spring. The 
eggs are usually six in number, but in some cases as many as nine 
are laid. In colour they are pale bluish green, very thickly spotted 
and freckled with olive-brown, and faintly blotched with ash-colour. 

The magpie may be easily tamed ; even the wild birds, when 
not persecuted, become strongly familiar with man, and come about 
the house like fowls. In a state of nature he subsists on grubs, 
worms, snails, slugs, and various insects, and will eat any kind of 
animal food that offers, not excepting carrion ; he also devours young 
birds and eggs, and is fond of ripe fruit. He is supposed to be a 
deadly enemy of the poultry-yard, and a stealer of pheasant and 
partridge chicks ; but it is certain that his depredations have been 
greatly exaggerated. 

Jackdaw. 
Corvus monedula. 

Crown and upper parts black with violet reflections ; back of the 
head and nape grey ; iris white ; under parts dull black. Length, 
fourteen inches. 



164 BRITISH BIRDS 

It is hard to pronounce which of our indigenous corvine species 
is the most interesting. They are all wonderful birds ; and to those 
who have made pets of, and studied them, and know them intimately 
as most of us know our dogs, they appear to excel other feathered 
creatures in the quality of mind, just as thrushes, larks, and warblers 
do in that of melody, and as terns and others of the more aerial 
kinds excel in graceful motions. If the jackdaw is not the first of 
his family in intelligence, he is certainly not behind any of them. 
In beauty he does not compete with the three species already 
described chough, jay, and pie and at a distance is only a lesser 
rook or carrion crow in appearance ; but there is a peculiar look 
about this bird when seen closely that engages and holds the atten- 
tion more than mere beauty or grace. When he is sitting in repose, 
his head drawn in and beak inclining downwards, and turns his 
face to you, it does not look quite like a bird's face : the feathers 
puffed out all round make the head appear preternaturally large, 
and the two small, bright, whitish grey eyes set close together in the 
middle have an expression of craft that is somewhat human and a 
little uncanny. 

The jackdaw is one of the birds that the gamekeeper wars 
against without ruth, shooting and trapping them in the breeding 
season, especially when they are occupied in feeding their young, 
and can be seen and easily shot in their frequent journeys to and 
from the nesting-tree. But the jackdaw is not so easy to extirpate 
as some of its congeners. He is probably just as common as he 
ever was, while the chough is rapidly dying out, and crow and jay 
and pie are yearly diminishing in numbers, and the raven, driven 
from its inland haunts, clings to existence in the wildest and most 
inaccessible parts of the coast. The reason of this is that the jack- 
daw is more adaptive than the other species. He has been com- 
pared in this respect to the house-sparrow, for he can exist in town 
as well as country, and readily adapts himself to new surroundings. 
The variety of sites he uses for breeding purposes shows how plastic 
are his habits. He breeds apart from his fellows, like the carrion 
crow ; or in communities, like the rook and chough. He builds in 
hollow trees in parks and woods, in rabbit-burrows, in ruins, church- 
towers, and buildings of all kinds ; and in holes and crevices in 
cliffs, whether inland or facing the sea, where he lives in company 
with the rock-pigeon and the puffin. ' At Flamborough,' Seebohm 
says, ' the jackdaws are very abundant. A republican might call 
them the aristocracy of the cliffs. Like the modern noble, or the 




ROOKB. JACKDAWS. STABLINGS. 



JACKDAW 165 

monks of the Middle Ages, they contrive to eat the fat of the land 
without any ostensible means of living. They apparently claim an 
hereditary right in the cliffs ; for they catch no fish, and do no work, 
but levy blackmail on the silly guillemots, stealing the fish which 
the male has brought to the ledges for the female, upsetting the egg 
of some unfortunate bird who has left it for a short tune, and 
devouring as much of its contents as they can get hold of, when the 
egg is broken, on some ledge of rock or in the sea.' 

The social disposition of the jackdaw, and its friendliness towards 
other species of its family, is no doubt favourable in the long run to 
it ; for by mixing with the rooks, both when feeding and roosting, 
he comes in for a share of the protection extended to that bird in 
most districts. There is also a sentiment favourable to the jackdaw 
on account of its partiality for churches and castles : the ' ecclesi- 
astical ' daws are safe and fearless of man while soaring and playing 
round the sacred buildings in villages and towns ; when they go 
abroad to forage, and are not with the rooks, there is danger for 
them, and they are, accordingly, wary and shy of man. 

At all seasons the jackdaw loves to consort with his fellows, and 
to spend a portion of each day in aerial games and exercises : the 
birds circle about in the air, pursuing and playfully buffeting one 
another, and tumbling downwards, often from a great height, only 
to mount aloft again, to renew the mock chase and battle and down- 
ward fall. They are loquacious birds, and frequently call loudly 
to one another, both when perched and when flying ; the usual call- 
note has a clear, sharp, querulous sound, something like the yelping 
bark of a small dog. 

The nest is a rude structure made with sticks, dry grass, leaves, 
wool, and other materials heaped together, and is large or small 
according to the situation ; when in a church-tower or hollow tree 
an enormous quantity of material is sometimes used to fill up the 
cavity. The eggs are four to six in number, and vary much in size, 
shape, and markings. They are very pale blue, varying to greenish 
blue, in ground-colour, and are spotted and blotched with blackish 
brown and olive-brown, with pinkish grey under-markings. 

The jackdaw is omnivorous, but subsists principally on worms, 
grubs, and insects, which it picks up in the pastures where it feeds 
in company with rooks and starlings. In spring it will eat the 
newly sown grain, in autumn devours acorns and beech-mast, and 
in winter will stoop to carrion. 

In captivity the jackdaw makes a clever and amusing pet, and 
may be taught to repeat a few words. 



166 BRITISH BIBDS 

Carrion Crow. 
Corvus corone. 

Black with green and violet reflections ; iris dark hazel ; lower 
part of the beak covered with bristly feathers. Length, nineteen 
inches. 

The common, black, or carrion crow so closely resembles the 
rook in form, size, and colouring as to be indistinguishable from it 
when seen at a distance. Viewed nearer it is seen to have the base 
of the beak clothed with feathers, instead of naked and grey, as is the 
case in the more common bird. The young rook may, however, be 
mistaken for a crow even when very near, as its face is feathered 
like the crow's. In voice the two birds differ, that of the crow 
being louder and very much harsher more like the raven's croak 
than the familiar hoarse, but not disagreeable, caw of the rook. In 
summer he may be identified by his solitary habits. He has a very 
much worse reputation than the species he so nearly resembles : 
both game-preserver and farmer regard him as a pest, and he is 
said to be the most persecuted bird in this country. But somehow, 
in spite of all that is done to extirpate him utterly, he manages to 
keep a pretty strong hold on life, although he is not common. He 
inhabits all of the British Islands, chiefly England and Wales; 
in the central and northern parts of Scotland, and in Ireland, he 
is rarely met with, his place in those countries being taken by 
the hooded crow. When not engaged in breeding the crow is to 
some extent gregarious, and is also social, associating both in the 
fields and at roosting-time with rooks and jackdaws. And it is 
probable that this habit has been of great advantage to him, and 
may even have saved the species from extermination, for while 
among the rooks he easily passes for a rook. That he is exception- 
ally sagacious, and very careful to keep out of reach of his 
deadly human enemies, goes without saying; he is a member of 
a family ranking high in intelligence ; and being so large and con- 
spicuous a bird, his life is one of incessant danger. In selecting 
a site for his nest his intelligence is sometimes at fault. Not 
only is the nest a large structure, but, with a strange fatuity, the 
bird will at tunes build in a conspicuous place near a house. On 
the coast he is, like the raven and jackdaw, a nester in cliffs ; inland 



CAEEION CROW 167 

he usually builds in or on a large tree, and if the nest is allowed to 
remain he will use it for several years. The nest is a large plat- 
form, made of sticks, weeds, pieces of turf, and other materials, 
with a hollow in the centre neatly lined with fine grass, wool, hairs, 
and feathers. The eggs are four to six in number, in ground- 
colour pale bluish green, spotted and blotched with various shades 
of olive-brown, with purplish grey underlying blotches. 

When there are young to feed the crow is exceedingly active ; 
he is then most destructive to young pheasants and other game, 
and is a troublesome neighbour to the poultry. Young and weakly 
birds are dropped upon and picked up with astonishing adroitness 
and rapidity. He will pounce upon and carry off any small and 
easily conquered animal to satisfy his nestful of voracious young. 
At other times he is omnivorous : a carrion- eater like the raven, 
and devourer of dead stranded fish and other animal refuse cast up 
by the sea ; in the pastures he searches for worms and grubs with 
the rooks ; and when occasion offers he feeds on gram, berries, wal- 
nuts, and fruit. He appears to have a greater appetite than most 
species : he is said to be the first bird astir in the morning, and 
from dawn until sunset he is engaged incessantly in seeking food. 

His flight resembles that of the rook, but is somewhat heavier. 

Hooded Crow. 
Corvus cornix. 

Head, throat, wings, and tail black; the rest of the plumage 
ash-grey ; iris brown. Length, nineteen and a half inches. 

This bird, which is also known as the hoodie, Boyston crow, 
grey or grey-backed crow, and by other names, is now regarded by 
some of our first authorities on such subjects as a form of the carrion 
crow. In England and Wales it is very rare. In Ireland, where 
the black crow is almost unknown, it is common ; it is also 
found throughout Scotland and the Western Islands as a resident 
breeding species. In winter, hooded crows visit the east coast of 
England in large numbers, and are specially abundant on the Lin- 
colnshire coast, where they feed on shellfish and animal refuse left 
by the tide on the extensive mud flats. These seaside crows that 
wait on the tide come to us from the north of Europe, and leave 
our shores in spring. 



168 BRITISH BIRDS 

/ 

Excepting in the matter of colour one bird being wholly black 
and the other grey on the back and under parts the black and grey 
crows are identical in size, language, and in all their habits, and 
what has been said of the carrion crow applies to the present species. 

Rook. 

Corvus frugilegus. 

Black with purple and violet reflections ; base of the beak, nos- 
trils, and region round the beak bare of feathers, and covered with a 
white scurf ; iris greyish white. Length, eighteen inches. 

The rook is common throughout the British Islands, and is our 
best-known large land bird, being everywhere the most abundant 
species, as well as the most conspicuous, owing to his great size, 
blackness, gregariousness, and habits of perching and nesting on 
the tops of trees, and of feeding on open grass spaces, where it is 
visible at a long distance. Without being a favourite of either 
the gamekeeper or the farmer, he is, in a measure, a protected 
species, the rookery being looked on as a pleasant and almost in- 
dispensable appanage of the country-house. It was not always so. 
In former times the rook was regarded as a highly injurious bird, 
and in the reign of Henry VIII. an Act of Parliament was passed 
to ensure its destruction. But this is ancient history. The existing 
sentiment, which is so favourable to the bird, probably had its origin 
centuries back in time, and the rook has everywhere come to regard 
the trees that are near a human habitation as the safest to build on. 
It is surprising to find how fearless of man he is in this respect, 
while retaining a suspicious habit towards him when at a distance 
from home. I recall one rookery on a clump of fir-trees so close 
to a large house that, from the top windows, one can look down on 
the nests and count the eggs in many of them ; yet for miles round 
the area is a well- wooded park, where the birds might easily have 
found scores of sites as well or better suited to their requirements. 

The birds usually return to the rookery in February, and in 
March, or even earlier if the weather should prove mild, they begin 
to repair the old nests and build new ones. The nests are placed 
on the topmost branches of the tree elm, oak, birch, or fir ; but an 
elm-tree is generally made choice of. The tree to suit the rook 
must be tall if possible, the tallest tree hi the place for it is the 



ROOK 



169 




Fia. 56. BOOKS AND NEST. 



170 BRITISH BIRDS 

instinct of the bird not only to have his house far out of reach of 
all possible terrestrial enemies, but so placed that a wide and unin- 
terrupted view of earth and sky may be obtained from it. As things 
now are his winged enemies do him little hurt, but it was not always 
so. In the next place, the branches must afford a suitable founda- 
tion to build on : they must be strong, and forked, so as to hold the 
fabric securely during high winds and sudden violent storms ; fur- 
thermore, there must be a clear space above or at the side, to 
enable the bird to approach and leave it without striking against 
the surrounding boughs. It is a well-known fact that rooks will 
desert a rookery when the trees are decaying, even when, to a 
human eye, they appear eound. The most probable explanation 
which has yet been offered of this fact is, that a considerable 
amount of pliancy in the branches ia necessary for the safety of the 
nest ; for if the branches do not yield and sway to the force of the 
wind, the nest is in danger of being blown bodily out of its place : 
in the decaying tree the upper branches become too stiff, from the 
insufficient supply of sap. 

The building and repairing time is one of great and incessant 
excitement in the rookery ; and it is curious to note that birds of 
such a social disposition, and able to live together in concord at all 
other times, are at this period extremely contentious. As a rule, 
when one bird is abroad foraging for sticks, his mate remains on 
guard at the nest. Among these watchers and the birds that are 
leaving and arriving there is much loud cawing, which sounds like 
* language,' in the slang sense of the word ; and it might appear 
(that they were all at strife, and each one fighting for himself. But 
it may be observed that a majority of the birds respect each other's 
rights, and never come into collision, and that there are others, in 
most cases a very few, who depart from these traditions, and are, 
like freebooters, always on the watch to plunder sticks from their 
neighbours' nests, instead of going afield to gather them. The pre- 
sence of these objectionable members of the community may account 
for some of the curious episodes in the life of the rookery as, for 
instance, the fact that all the birds will sometimes combine to per- 
secute one pair, and demolish their nest again and again as fast as 
it is made. 

The nest, when completed, is a large structure, two feet or more 
in diameter, made of sticks, and lined with dry grass. The eggs 
are four to six in number, and are bluish green, spotted and 
blotched with greyish purple and dull brown. 



BOOK 171 

During incubation the male assiduously feeds his sitting mate, 
and occasionally changes places with her ; and after the young are 
out of the shells both parents are engaged incessantly in collecting 
food for them. From early morning until dark they may be seen 
flying to and from the rookery, on each return journey carrying a 
cluster of worms and grubs in the mouth. 

When the young are folly fledged they are seen perching 
awkwardly on the branches near the nest, occasionally making 
short, tentative flights, and apparently anxious to go forth into that 
wide green world spread out beneath their cradle and watch-tower. 
They are, happily, ignorant of the doom that awaits them ; for the 
tune is now near when the blood-tax must be levied on the com- 
munity the price which is paid for protection ; and, the young only 
being eatable, the slaughter must fall on them. As a rule, a few of 
the young escape death, as, when the shooting begins, and the ol<? 
birds rise in haste to scatter in all directions, a few of the most 
advanced young birds that are already strong on the wing follow 
their parents to a place of safety. 

After the breeding season, which is usually over at the beginning 
of June, the rookery is forsaken ; in some cases the birds disappear, 
and do not return until the next spring ; more often they pay an 
occasional visit to the rookery, and some rookeries are visited 
almost daily by the birds. But for the rest of the year their 
roosting-place is elsewhere, often at a considerable distance. In 
districts where rooks are abundant there is generally one great 
roosting-place, where the communities inhabiting the country for 
many miles around are accustomed to congregate at the end of 
each day. As the evening draws near the birds begin to arrive 
from two, or three, or more directions, in detachments or long, loose 
trains, flying steadily, at an equal height above the ground. "Where 
they settle the tree-tops are black with their numbers ; and as 
fresh contingents pour in the noise of the cawing grows louder 
and more continuous, until it is in volume like the sound of a 
surging sea. At intervals large numbers of birds rise up, to hang 
like a black cloud above the trees for some minutes, but as the 
evening darkens they all finally settle down for the night ; still, in 
so vast an assemblage there are always many waking individuals, 
and a noise of subdued cawing may be heard throughout the hours of 
darkness. With the returning light there is a renewal of the loud 
noise and excitement, as the birds rise up and wheel about in the air 
before setting out on their journey to their distant feeding-grounds. 



172 



BRITISH BIRDS 



Raven. 

Corvus corax. 




FIG. 57. EAVEN. 



natural size. 



Black with purple reflections ; tail black ; iris with two 
circles, the inner grey, the outer ash-brown. Length, twenty-five 
inches. 

The raven has the reputation, true or false, of being one of the 
longest-lived birds ; certainly it is one of the hardiest, and capable 
of adapting itself to the greatest extremes of temperature. Its 
range in the northern hemisphere extends from the regions of 
1 thick-ribbed ice ' to the damp, hot woods and burning coasts 
of Southern Mexico and Central America. The tropical jaguar 
may help it to a meal at one extremity of its range, the polar 
bear at the other. Compared to such diversities of climate and 
of other conditions, those of the British Islands are as nothing. 
From the Isle of Wight and the southern coast to the northern 
extremity of Scotland, and beyond, to * utmost Kilda's lonely isle,' 



RAVEN 173 

the ra-ven has lived in what, to a bird of his grit, must have been 
a very pleasant garden with a mild and equable temperature 
throughout the year. Formerly he was a fairly common bird in 
all parts of our island, and it is probable that some protection was 
accorded to him by owners of large estates, in spite of his evil 
reputation, on account of some such sentiment as now exists with 
regard to the rook. A pair of ravens in a woodland district, 
Seebohm says, 'was often considered the pride and pest of the 
parish.' But the sentiment, if it existed, was not strong enough, 
and the constant persecution of the bird by its two principal 
enemies, the gamekeeper and the shepherd, joined by a third 
during the present century in the ' collector,' has gradually driven it 
from all, or well-nigh all, its ancient inland haunts, and it now 
exists in its last strongholds, the rugged iron-bound sea-coast OD 
the norther .1 coasts of Scotland and the neighbouring islands. A 
few a very few pairs are still to be met with on some of the 
cliffs on the south and south-west coasts of England, and on the 
Welsh coast ; but even in the rudest and most solitary localities 
inhabited by it the bird can keep its hold on life only by means 
of a wariness and sagacity exceeding that of most other wild and 
persecuted species. 

Like most of the members of its family, the raven is omnivorous, 
feeding indiscriminately on grubs, worms, insects, grain, fruit, 
carrion, and animal food of all kinds. Being so much bigger and 
more powerful than other crows, with a larger appetite to satisfy, 
he is more rapacious in his habits, and bolder in attacking animals 
of large size. He will readily attack a small lamb left by its dam, 
and pick out its eyes; but, as a rule, his attacks on lambs and 
sheep are confined to the very young and to the sickly or dying. 
He also attacks har'es, rabbits, and birds of various kinds, when he 
finds them ailing or wounded by shot. He is fond of eggs, as well 
as of nestlings, and plunders the nests of the sea-birds that inhabit 
the cliffs in his neighbourhood. But the greatest part of his food 
consists of dead animal matter cast up by the sea, and carrion of 
all kinds : a dead sheep will afford him pasture for some days, and 
keep him out of mischief for he can be hawk or vulture as occa- 
sion offers. 

In appearance the raven is a larger rook or carrion crow ; he 
is a fine bird, and his large size, the uniform blackness of his 
plumage, and his deep, harsh, and human-like, croaking voice, 
strongly impress the imagination. But the effect produced on the 



174 BEITISH BIRDS 

mind by the raven is, doubtless, in part due to the bird's reputation, 
to its ancient historical fame, its large place in our older literature, 
and to the various sombre superstitions connected with it. When 
feeding on a carcase his appearance is not engaging: there is a 
lack of dignity in his sidling or ' loping ' motions, and savage haste 
in tearing at the flesh, with a startled look round after each morsel. 
"When disturbed from his repast the slow, cumbrous, flapping 
flight as he rises strongly reminds you of the vulture. He makes a 
nobler figure when soaring high in the air, or along the face of 
some huge beetling cliff that fronts the sea ; for then his flight has 
power and ease as he falls and rises, playing, like a giant chough 
or jackdaw, with his mate. 

The raven pairs for life, and uses the same nest year after year. 
A pair or two may still breed hi a tree somewhere in Scotland or 
in the north of England, but, in almost all cases, the bird now 
makes his nest on a ledge of rock on some cliff on the sea-coa"st. 
It is a rude, bulky structure, formed of sticks and heather, and 
lined with grass and wool. The eggs are four to six in number, 
bluish green in ground-colour, more or less thickly spotted and 
marked with dark olive -brown. 

The raven is the earliest bird to breed in this country : the 
nest-building begins in January, and the eggs are laid in February 
or March. 

Besides the eight species described, a ninth member of the 
corvine family has been included among British birds ; this is the 
nutcracker (Nucifraga caryocatactes), a very irregular straggler to 
our shores from northern Europe. 

Skylark. 
Alauda arvensis. 

Upper parts varied with three shades of brown, the darkest of 
which lies along the shaft of each feather ; a faint whitish streak 
over the eye ; throat white ; under parts yellowish white tinged 
with brown ; the throat and sides of neck with dark brown lanceolate 
spots, which form a gorget just above the breast. Length, seven 
inches and a quarter. 

The skylark is so universally diffused in these islands, and so 
abundant, well known, and favourite a' species, that anything beyond 



8KYLAEK 175 

a brief and prosaic account of its habits would appear superfluous. 
His image, better than any pen can portray it, already exists in every 
mind. A distinguished ornithologist, writing of the sparrow, declines 
to describe its language, and asks his reader to open his window and 
hear it for himself. In like manner, I may ask my reader to listen 
to the lark's song, which exists registered in his own brain. For he 
must have heard it times without number, this being a music which, 
like the rain and sunshine, falls on all of us. If someone, too curious, 
should desire me not to concern myself with the images and regis- 
tered sensations of others' brains, but to record here my own im- 
pressions and feelings, I could but refer him to Shelley's ' Ode to a 




FIG. 58. SKYLARK. natural size. 

Skylark,' which describes the bird at his best the bird, and the feel- 
ing produced on the listener. Some ornithologist (I blush to say it) 
has pointed out that the poet's description is unscientific and of no 
value ; nevertheless, it embodies what we all feel at times, although 
we may be without inspiration, and have only dull prose for expres- 
sion. It is true there are those who are not moved by nature's 
sights and sounds, even in her ' special moments,' who regard a 
skylark merely as something to eat with a delicate flavour. It> is 
well, if we desire to think the best that we can of our fellows, to look 
on such persons as exceptions, like those, perhaps fabled, monsters 



176 BRITISH BIRDS 

of antiquity who feasted on nightingales' tongues and other strange 
meats. 

The skylark inhabits open places, and is to be met with on 
pastures, commons, downs, and mountain slopes ; but he prefers 
arable land, and is most abundant in cultivated districts. In winter 
his song may be occasionally heard in mild weather ; in February 
it becomes more frequent, and increases until the end of March, 
when it may be said that his music is at full flood ; and at this high 
point it continues for several months, during which time successive 
broods are reared. A more inexhaustible singer than the lark does 
not exist ; and when we consider how abundant and widely diffused 
the bird is, the number of months during which he is vocal, and 
the character of the song a rapid torrent of continuous sound it is 
almost possible to believe that the melody from this one species actu- 
ally equals in amount that from all the other song-birds together. 

The nest, made in April, is a slight hollow in the ground in a 
cornfield, or among the grass of a meadow, or any open place, and 
is composed of dry grass and moss, lined with fine grass and horse- 
hair. The eggs are four or five in number, greyish white, spotted 
and clouded with greenish brown. Two or three broods are reared. 

In September the skylarks begin to assemble in flocks and shift 
their ground. At this season they migrate in large numbers ; but 
many remain throughout the year, except in the more northern 
districts. Large flocks of migrants from the Continent also appear 
during the winter months. 

In winter the lark feeds chiefly on seeds ; in summer he is an 
insect as well as a seed eater. 



Woodlark. 
Alauda arborea. 

Upper parts reddish brown, the centre of each feather dark 
brown ; a distinct yellowish white streak above the eye, extending 
to the back part of the head ; under parts yellowish white streaked 
with dark brown. Tail very short. Length, six and a half inches. 

In appearance the woodlark is a lesser skylark, with a shorter 
tail in proportion to the body, and no apparent difference in colour, 
except that the spots on the breast and the pale streak over the eye 
are more conspicuous. It ranks with the six or eight finest British 



WOODLAEK 177 

songsters, but is the least known of all. The tree-pipit, sometimes 
called woodlark, is a much better known songster. When the wood- 
lark is seen and heard he is taken by most people for the skylark. 
The mistake is easily made, the song having the same character, 
and is a continuous stream of jubilant sound, delivered in the same 
manner ; for the woodlark, too, soars, ' and soaring, sings.' He differs 
from the skylark hi his manner of rising : that bird goes up and up, 
not quite vertically, but inclining now to this side, now to that, with 
intervals of suspension, but still as if drawn heavenwards by an 
invisible cord or magnet ; the woodlark ascends in circles, and 
finally does not attain to so great a height. He also sings on his 
perch on a tree, and rises from the tree to sing aloft, and in this 
habit he is like the tree-pipit. Although the woodlark's song re- 
sembles that of the larger bird in character, there is more sameness 
in the flow of sounds, and it is not so powerful ; on the other hand, 
the sounds are sweeter in quality. Of the two, he is the more con- 
stant singer, and may be heard in mild weather throughout the 
autumn and winter months. His usual' call is a melodious double 
note. 

The woodlark is very local in its distribution ; it is nowhere 
common, and its range in this country is a somewhat limited one. 
In the north of England it is very rare, and in Scotland it has only 
once been observed breeding. In Ireland it breeds in some localities. 
It inhabits wooded parks and the borders of woods and commons, 
and grass-lands in the vicinity of trees and hedgerows ; for although 
it feeds, roosts, and nests on the ground, it must, like the tree-pipit, 
have trees to perch on ; and, like that bird, it has a favourite perch, 
where it may be confidently looked for at any hour of the day 
during the spring and summer months. 

The nest is placed in a slight hollow in the ground, under a bush, 
or sheltered by grass and herbage, and is formed of dry grass and 
moss, and lined with finer grass and hair. The eggs are four or five 
in number, bufnsh or faint greenish white in ground-colour, freckled 
and spotted with reddish brown, with purple -grey under-markings. 
Three, and even four, broods are said to be reared in the season. 

In autumn and winter the woodlarks unite in families or small 
flocks, and at this season they have a partial or internal migration, 
the birds that breed in the northern counties moving south. In 
the southern and south-western counties they remain stationary, 
and it is observed that during a spell of mild weather in winter 
these small flocks break up, but re-form at the return of cold. 



178 BRITISH BIRDS 

Besides the two indigenous larks, we have as rare stragglers the 
following four species : the crested lark (Alauda cristata), an in- 
habitant of Europe and Asia; the short-toed lark (Calendrella 
brachydactyla), from southern Europe; the white-winged lark 
(MelanocorypTia sibirica), a Siberian species, obtained once in 
England ; and the shore-lark (Otocorys alpestris), an irregular winter 
visitor from North Europe, Asia, and America. 

Swift. 
Cypselus apus 

Sooty brown; chin greyish white; tarsi feathered; bill, feet, 
and claws shining black. Length, seven and a half inches. 

The swift arrives in this country about the end of April or early 
in May, and from that tune onwards, throughout the spring and 
summer months, day after day, from morning until evening, he 
may be seen overhead, in twos, threes, and half-dozens, pursuing hia 
mad, everlasting race through the air. Even as late as ten o'clock 
in the evening, or later, when his form can no longer be followed 
by the straining sight, his shrill, exulting cry may be heard at 
intervals, now far off, and now close at hand, showing that the day- 
light hours of these northern latitudes are not long enough to ex- 
haust his wonderful energy. It has even been supposed by some 
naturalists that, when not incubating, he spends the entire night on 
the wing. This is hard to believe ; but if we consider his rate of 
speed, and the number of hours he visibly spends on the whig, it 
would be within the mark to say that the swift, in a sense, ' puts a 
girdle round the earth ' two or three times a month. Year after 
year the swifts return to the same localities to breed, and there are 
few towns, villages, hamlets, or even isolated mansions and farm- 
houses in the British Islands where this bird is not a summer guest. 
The bunch of swifts to be seen rushing round the tower of every 
village church are undoubtedly the same birds, or their descendants, 
that have occupied the place from time immemorial ; and it is pro- 
bable that the annual increase is just sufficient to make good the 
losses by death each year. It is hard to believe that a life so stren- 
uous can last very long, and impossible to believe that birds so free 
of the air are subject to many fatal accidents. A spell of intense 
frost is very fatal to them in spring, but the cold is their only enemy 
in this country. 



SWIFT 179 

The black swift, or ' develing,' or ' screecher,' as he is sometimes 
named, with his exceedingly long, stiff, scythe-shaped wings, still 
' urging his wild career ' through the air, is a figure familiar to 
everyone. And his voice, too, is a familiar sound to every ear. It 
is usually described as a harsh scream. Wild and shrill and piercing 
it certainly is, but it varies greatly with the bird's emotions, and is 
at times a beautiful silvery sound, which many would hear with 
delight if uttered by the song-thrush or nightingale. 

The swift breeds in holes in church-towers and in houses, its 
favourite site being under the eaves of a thatched cottage ; it also 
nests in crevices in the sides of chalk-pits and sea-cliffs, and some- 
times in hollow trees. A slight nest of straw and feathers, made to 
adhere together with the bird's saliva, is built, and two eggs are 
laid ; they are oval in form, white in colour, and have rough shells. 
One brood only is reared in the season, and the birds depart at the 
end of August, but stragglers may be met with as late as October. 

The white-bellied swift (Cypselus melbd) is known in England 
as a rare straggler from Central and Southern Europe. A still rare* 
straggler from Eastern Siberia, where it breeds, is the needle-tailed 
swift (Accwithyllis caudacuta) ; of this species not more than two or 
three specimens have been obtained in this country. 

Nightjar. 
Caprimulgus europaeus. 

Ash-grey spotted and barred with black, brown, and chestnut ; 
first three primaries with a large white patch on the inner web, 
the two outer tail-feathers on each side tipped with white. Length, 
ten and a quarter inches. 

The nightjar, or goatsucker, is the representative of a type widely 
distributed on the earth ; we have only one species, just as we have 
but one swift, one kingfisher, one wryneck, and one cuckoo. And, 
having but one, and this being so singular a bird, unlike all other 
species known to us, in structure, colouring, language, and habits, he 
excites a great deal of interest, and is very well known, although a 
night-bird, nowhere abundant, and a sojourner with us for only 
about four months and a half out of the twelve. He arrives in this 
country about the middle of May, and inhabits commons, moors, 



180 



BRITISH BIRDS 



and stony placea and is also to be met with in woods. He is found 
in all suitable localities throughout Great Britain, but is more local 
in Ireland. Year after year he returns to the same spot to breed, 
faithful as the swift to its church-tower and the wryneck to its 
hollow tree, although the unforgotten spot may be on level waste 
land with a uniform surface. During the daylight hours he sits 
on the ground among bracken or heather, or by the side of a furze- 
bush, or in some open place where there is no shelter ; but so long 
as he remains motionless it is all but impossible to detect him, so 
closely does he resemble the earth in colour. And here we see the 
advantage of his peculiar colouring the various soft shades of buff 




Fia. 69. NIQHTJAB. i natural size. 

and brown and grey, which at a short distance harmonise with the 
surroundings, and render him invisible. When perching on a tree 
he makes himself invisible in another way: his habit is to perch, 
not crossways on a branch, but lengthways. He rises from; he 
ground when almost trodden on, and goes away with a silent flight, 
darting this way and that in an eccentric course, and looking more 
like a great grey mottled and marbled moth than a bird. After 
going a short distance he drops to earth just as suddenly as he rose. 
After sunset he may be seen on the borders of woods, by the side of 
hedges, and in meadows near the water, pursuing his insect prey, 
dashing rapidly along, with quick turns and doublings, as of a lap- 
wing at play. At this hour his curious reeling, spinning, or whirring 



NIGHTJAR 181 

song may be heard, a little like the song of the grasshopper warbler 
in character ; but the warbler's song is a whisper by comparison. 
' The sound,' Yarrell truly says, ' can be easily imitated by vibrating 
the tongue against the roof of the mouth ; but the imitation, excel- 
lent as it may be close to the performer, is greatly inferior in power, 
being almost inaudible to anyone twenty yards off, while the original 
can be heard in calm weather for half a mile or more.' Of the other 
curious vocal performance of the nightjar the same author says : * On 
the whig, while toying with his mate, or executing his rapid evolutions 
round the trees, . . . the cock occasionally produces another sound, 
which, by some excellent observers, has been called a squeak, but 
to the writer is exactly like that which can be made by swinging a 
whip thong in the air.' Most of the names the bird is called by have 
reference to its summer song spinner, wheelbird, night-churn, and 
churn- owl. 

The nightjar deposits its two eggs on the bare ground ; their 
colour is white or cream, blotched, mottled, clouded, and veined 
with brown, blackish brown, and grey. One brood is reared in the 
season. Tbo return migration is in September. 

A single specimen of the red-necked nightjar (Caprimulgus 
ruficollis), an inhabitant of South-western Europe, has been obtained 
in this country ; and (in 1883) one specimen of the Egyptian night- 
jar (Caprimulgus cegyptius), was shot in Nottinghamshire. 

Spotted Woodpecker. 

(Great Spotted Woodpecker.) 

Dendrocopus major. 

Crown and upper parts black ; a crimson patch on the back of 
the head ; a white spot on each side of the neck ; scapulars, lesser 
whig-coverts, and under parts white ; belly and under tail-coverts 
crimson. Female : without crimson on the head. Length, nine 
and a half inches. 

The present species is less common than the green woodpecker ; 
and as it seldom goes to the ground, and usually confines its food- 
seeking to the higher branches of trees, it is rarely seen. Nor is it 
nearly so loquacious as the larger bird, nor so richly coloured, 
although handsome and conspicuous in its black-and-white dress, 



182 



BEITISH BIBDS 



with a touch of glossy crimson on the nape. It frequents woods, 
hedgerows, and plantations, also pollard willows growing by the side 
of streams. It may be met with in most English counties, but in 
the northern counties and in Scotland it is very scarce. In Ireland 
it does not breed, although occasionally seen there as a migrant 
in winter. These migrants come from northern Europe, sometimes 
in considerable numbers, and are diffused over the British Islands ; 
the birds of British race are believed to remain in this country 
throughout the year. 







FIG. 60. SPOTTED WOODPBCKBB. f natural size. 

Like most woodpeckers, this species feeds principally on insects 
found in crevices of the bark and decayed wood of trees. In the 
season he becomes a fruit and seed eater, and visits gardens and 
orchards to steal the cherries ; and also feeds on berries, nuts, acorns, 
and fir-seeds. He is, for a woodpecker, a silent bird ; his usual call 
is a sharp, quick note, repeated two or three times. The most 
curious sound he makes is instrumental : it is the love-call of the 
bird, produced by striking the beak on a branch so rapidly as to 
produce a long jarring or rattling note. 

The eggs are laid in a hole in a tree, not always made -by the 
bird ; they are six or seven in number, and creamy white in colour. 



BAEEED WOODPECKER 183 

Barred Woodpecker. 

(Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.) 

Dendrocopus minor. 

Forehead and lower parts dirty white ; crown bright red ; 
nape, back, and wings black with white bars ; tail black, the outer 
feathers tipped with white and barred with black; iris red. 
Length, five and a half inches. 

When Yarrell wrote that the neglect of the name of barred 
woodpecker, which had been used by some authors for the present 
species, was to be regretted for brevity's sake, it was a pity that he 
did not go so far as to reintroduce it in his great work. For doubt- 
less many a writer on birds has groaned in spirit at the necessity 
laid upon him to use two such cumbrous names as great, or greater, 
spotted woodpecker, and lesser spotted woodpecker. Partly on this 
account I lament YarrelTs timidity, and partly for a personal reason, 
since my boldness in using the neglected name will be taken by some 
readers as an exemplification of the familiar truth that fools rush in 
where angels fear to tread. But no one will deny that the book- 
names of these two woodpeckers are bad, and to some extent mis- 
leading, since the birds are as unlike in markings as they are in size. 
The first is as big as a fieldfare, and is spotted ; the second is scarcely 
larger than a linnet, and is distinctly barred. 

The barred woodpecker is found in most English counties as far 
north as York ; in Scotland and Ireland it is a rare straggler. It is 
nowhere common, and appears to be even rarer than it is, owing to 
its small size and its habit of frequenting tall trees. Its usual note 
is a sharp chirp, resembling that of the blackbird when going to 
roost; its love-call, as in the case of the spotted woodpecker, is 
instrumental, and produced in the same manner. The sound varies 
in tone and pitch according to the character of the tree performed 
on, and has been compared to the sound made by an auger when 
used in boring hard wood ; also to the creaking of a branch swayed 
by the wind. 

The barred woodpecker in most cases makes a nesting-hole for 
itself in the branch or trunk of a soft-wooded tree. Six or seven 
smooth, creamy white eggs are laid. 



184 



BRITISH BIRDS 



Green Woodpecker. 
Gecinus viridis. 




FIG 61. GREEN WOODPECKER. natural size. 

Upper parts olive-green; rump yellow; under parts greenish 
grey; crown, back of the head, and moustaches crimson; face 
black. Female : less crimson on the head ; moustaches black. 
Length, thirteen inches. 

The chief characteristic of this beautiful woodland bird is his 
extraordinary energy. His entire structure, from the straight, sharp, 
powerful bill, and long, barbed tongue, to the climbing feet and stiff 
tail-feathers, used as a support to the body when clinging vertically 
to the trunk of a tree, is admirably adapted to the laborious trade 
he follows. And this peculiar form has its correlative in a strength, 
boldness, and determination in attacking a hard piece of work that 
are nothing less than brilliant. One is astonished at the force of 
the sounding blows he delivers on the tough bark and wood in his 
search for hidden insects ; yet this is one of the common, small, 
everyday tasks of his life, and not comparable to the huge labour of 
digging a breeding-hole deep into the heart of a large branch or trunk 



GREEN WOODPECKER 185 

of a tree. This energy and intensity of lifeshows itself also in his 
motions, gestures, and language. His very qualities of eagerness 
and determination in splitting up the wood in which his prey lies 
concealed, and the loud racket he is compelled to make at such 
times, call upon him the undesirable attentions of the species that 
are his enemies : he must, when hammering on a tree, be exceed- 
ingly vigilant all the while, less some prowling sparrow-hawk or 
swift-descending falcon shall take him unawares. The wood he 
exerts his strength on does not absorb his whole attention : his eyes 
are all the time glancing this way and that, and on the slightest 
appearance of danger he is nimble as a squirrel to place the trunk 
or branch between himself and a possible enemy. After a few 
moments of hiding his red head becomes visible as he peeps 
cautiously round the trunk, and if the danger be then over he goes 
back to his task. In the presence of a winged enemy he finds his 
safety in clinging to the trunk, round which he can move so rapidly, 
as on the wing he is a heavy bird; but hawks are now rare in 
England, and hia chief persecutors are men with guns. 

The language of the green woodpecker, or yaffle, as he is called 
in the southern counties, adds greatly to his attractiveness ; his ring- 
ing cry is a sound to rejoice the hearer. Many of the woodpeckers 
have extremely powerful voices, and the cry of the great black 
woodpecker of continental Europe has been described by one 
familiar with it as being like the ' yell of a demon.' This * demon ' 
must, I imagine, be a very blithe-hearted one, and its * yell ' an 
expression of wild, joyous, woodland life which we should be glad to 
listen to in England. Our bird's voice is not so powerful ; but who 
has not been made happier for a whole day by hearing his ' loud 
laugh,' as one of our old poets has called his cry ? It is a clear, 
piercing sound, so loud and sudden that it startles you, full of wild 
liberty and gladness ; and when I listen for and fail to hear it in 
park or forest, I feel that I have missed a sound for which no other 
bird cry or melody can compensate me. 

This species is found in woods and parks throughout England as 
far north as Derbyshire and the south of Yorkshire ; farther north 
he is very rare as a breeder, and in Ireland is only known as a 
straggler. In seeking his food he climbs obliquely up the trunk, 
until, having mounted to the higher branches, he passes with a dip- 
ping flight to the next tree, invariably alighting near the roots. In 
summer he feeds a great deal on the ground, especially on ants, of 
vrhich he is very fond. The breeding-hole is usually made in a soft- 



186 



BEITISH BIBDS 



wooded tree ; it is carried straight to the heart of the wood, and ia 
then extended downwards to the depth of about a foot. In most 
cases it is found that the heart of the tree selected by the birds is 
rotten, although outwardly no signs of decay may appear. The 
hole ends in a chamber in which the eggs are deposited on a slight 
bed of chips ; the eggs are four to seven in number, are oval hi form 
and have pure white polished shells. The young when fledged 
come out of their cell in the tree's heart, and creep about the bark 
for some days before they are able to fly. 

The same breeding-hole is used for several years, if not taken 
possession of by a pair of marauding starlings, which not unfrequently 
happens. 

Wryneck. 

lynx torquilla. 

Upper parts red- 
dish grey, irregularly 
spotted and lined with 
brown and black ; a 
broad black and brown 
band from the back of 
the head to the back ; 
under parts dull 
white, tinged with 
buff, and barred with 
dark brown, except on 
the breast and belly, 
where the markings 
become arrow-headed 
in form ; outer web of 
the quills marked with 
rectangular, alternate 
black and yellowish 
red spots ; tail-feathers 

barred with black zigzag bands ; beak and feet olive-brown. Length, 

seven inches. 

The wryneck is placed by anatomists next to the woodpeckers, 
and is like them in the form of its feet and the habit of perching 
vertically on the trunks of trees ; but he does not dig into the wood 




FIG. 62. WRYNECK. natural size. 



WEYNECK 187 

with his beak, nor does he support himself with his tail, the feathers 
of which are soft, as in most perching birds. He is a singular bird, 
differing from all others in form, colouring, language, and habits. 
His variously coloured plumage, so curiously and beautifully barred 
and mottled, is most like that of the nightjar ; but his beauty appears 
only when he is seen very near. At a distance of twenty-five or 
thirty yards he is obscure in colouring, and is more remarkable for 
his attitudes and gestures, when seen on a tree trunk deftly and 
rapidly picking up the small ants on which he feeds. When 
thus engaged he twists his neck, turning his head from side to side 
in a most singular manner ; hence the name of wryneck. When 
taken in the hand he twists his neck about in the same manner, 
and hisses like a snake, as he also does when disturbed during incu- 
bation ; and on this account he has been called snake-bird. When 
held in the hand he sometimes swoons, and appears to be dead until 
released, whereupon he quickly recovers and makes his escape. 
Even more characteristic than his contortions, hissings, and ' death 
feignings,' is his voice. It is an unmistakable and familiar sound 
of early spring, as distinctive as the shrill cry of the swift and the 
cuckoo's call a clear, high-pitched, far-reaching note, reiterated 
many times a sound that makes itself heard at a distance of a 
quarter of a mile. As a rule, this note is heard a few days before 
the cuckoo's call, and on this account the wryneck is known in the 
southern counties, where he is most common, as the cuckoo's mate, 
or messenger, or boder, and is also called the cuckoo's maid. 

The wryneck feeds chiefly on ants and their larvae, and, like the 
green woodpecker, he goes to the anthills on commons and unculti- 
vated grounds ; the insects are taken with the long, retractile tongue, 
which is covered with an adhesive saliva, and which the bird, when 
feeding, darts out and withdraws with lightning rapidity. 

A hole in the trunk of a tree, often near the roots, is a favourite 
nesting-place. The eggs are seven to ten in number, and are de- 
posited, without any nest, on the rotten wood. They are pure white, 
and have glossy shells. The same breeding-hole is used year after 
year. 

The wryneck is most common in the southern and south-eastern 
counties ; in the West of England and in Wales it is rarer. In the 
northern counties of England it is also rare and local ; in Scotland 
it does not breed, and in Ireland it is not known. 



183 



BRITISH BIRDS 



Kingfisher. 
Alcedo ispida. 




FIG. 63. KINGFISHER. natural size. 



Back azure -blue ; head and wing- coverts bluish green spotted 
with azure-blue ; under and behind the eye a reddish band, passing 
into white, and beneath this a band of azure-green ; wings and tail 
greenish blue ; throat white ; under parts rusty orange-red. Length, 
seven and a half inches. 

The kingfisher is by far the most brilliantly coloured bird in the 
British Islands ; and those who see it living and moving with the 
sunlight on it can form an idea of the wonderful lustre of many 
tropical species, which certainly cannot be done by gazing on the 
labelled pellets of dead and dimmed feathers, called ' specimens,' in 
cabinets and museums. Unhappily, this rare splendour of the king- 
fisher, which gives it value, has served only to draw destruction upon 
it. As Yarrell long ago said, it is persecuted chiefly because of its 
beauty, and the desire to possess a stuffed specimen in a glass case. 
It is found in suitable localities throughout Great Britain where it 



KINGFISHER 189 

has not been exterminated to gratify the vile taste that prefers a 
mummy to a living creature. In Ireland it is rare and local as a 
breeding species, but as an autumn and winter visitor is found 
throughout the country. It frequents streams and rivers, and the 
margins of lakes, and, more rarely, the seaside. It is a solitary bird, 
and, like the dipper, restricts itself to one part of the stream where 
it gets its food. Day after day it returns to the same perch, where 
it sits watching the surface, silent and immovable as a heron. It 
looks out for its prey both when perched and when flying at a height 
of a few feet above the surface, and often hovers motionless for a 
few moments before darting down into the water. With the min- 
now it captures held crossways in the beak it flies to a perch, and, 
after beating it against the branch or stone, swallows it, head first, 
sometimes tossing it in the air and catching it as it falls. It also 
preys on aquatic insects and small crustaceans. The pairing -time 
is early, and in February or March the birds make choice of a breed- 
ing place, usually near their fishing-ground, but sometimes at a 
distance of a mile or more from the water. A hole is dug in a bank 
to a depth of from one to three or four feet ; but sometimes the 
birds find a hole suited to their purpose, or a cavity under the roots 
of a tree growing on an overhanging bank, which they occupy. 
The hole made by the birds has an upward slope, and ends in a 
chamber about six inches in diameter. Here is formed the nest, of 
the strangest material used by any nest-making bird. The king- 
fisher, like the owl and cuckoo and many other species, casts up 
the indigestible portions of its food the minute bones of minnows 
in this case in the form of small pellets. The pellets are thrown 
up in the nest-chamber, and, when broken up and pressed down by 
the sitting-bird, are shaped into a cuplike nest. The eggs are six to 
eight in number, pure white and translucent, and globular in form. 

Probably the kingfisher pairs for life, as the same breeding-hole 
is used year after year, although the two birds are not seen together 
out of the breeding season. 

The cry is a shrill but musical piping note, two or three times 
repeated, somewhat like the sandpiper's cry. 

Two specimens of the belted kingfisher (Ceryle alcyori), an 
American species, have been obtained in Ireland. 

Three other birds remain to be noticed in this place ; they are 
members of three distinct families, and are amongst the most beau- 
tiful of the rare occasional visitors seen in our country : 



190 BEITISH BIRDS 

The roller (Coracius garrula), a jay-like bird, blue and chest- 
nut-brown in colour. It breeds in Southern and Central Europe, 
and is known only as a rare straggler in the British Islands. 

The bee-eater (Merops apiaster) A good many examples of this 
elegant and richly coloured bird have been obtained in England. It 
is an abundant species in Southern Europe, where it breeds in colonies 
in sandbanks, like our sand-martin. 

The hoopoe (Upupa epops). This species has some claim to a 
place among British birds, as it is an annual visitor to our country, 




m 



Fio. 64. HOOPOE. 

although in small numbers. It is a singular and beautiful bird, and 
it is sad to think that, but for the persecution it has encountered 
year after year, it would most probably have established itself as a 
regular breeding species in the southern counties of England. 

Cuckoo. 
Cuculus canorus. 

Upper parts bluish ash, darker on the wings, lighter on the 
neck and breast ; under parts whitish with transverse dusky 
streaks ; quills barred on the inner webs with oval white spots ; 



CUCKOO 



191 



tail-leathers blackish, tipped and spotted with white ; beak dusky, 
edged with yellow; orbits and inside of month orange yellow; 




FIG. 65. CUCKOO. natural size. 



iris and feet yellow. Young: ash-brown barred with reddish 
brown ; tips of feathers white ; a white spot on the back of the 
head. Length, thirteen and a half inches. 

There are many cuckoos in the world, and hi some countries it 
would be possible to see three or four, or even half a dozen, distinct 
species in the course of a single day. We have but one, and have 
made much of it. Perhaps no bird,' says Yarrell, ' has attracted 
so much attention, while of none have more idle tales been told.' 
And he might have added, that of no other bird so much remains to 
be known. Our cuckoo interests us in two distinct ways: he 
charms us, and he affects the mind with his strangeness. He is a 
visitor of the early spring, with a far-reaching, yet soft and musical, 
voice, full of beautiful associations, prophetic of the flowery season. 
To quote Sir Philip Sidney's words, applying them to a feathered 
instead of to a human troubadour : He cometh to you with a tale to 
hold children from their play and old men from the chimney- 
corner.' Seen, this melodist has the bold figure, rough, feathered 



102 BEITISH BIEDS 

legs, and barred plumage of a hawk. This fierce, predacious aspect 
is deceptive : he is a timid bird, with the climbing feet of the wood- 
pecker and wryneck. Strangest of all, the female has the habit of 
placing her eggs in other birds' nests, forgetting her mother- 
hood, a proceeding which, being contrary to nature's use, seems 
unnatural. It reads like a tale from the * Thousand and One Nights,' 
in which we sometimes encounter human beings, good, or bad, or 
merely fantastic, who wander about the world disguised as birds. 
Only when we see and handle the cuckoo's egg placed in the hedge- 
sparrow's, or pipit's, or wagtail's nest, when we see the large 
hawk -like young cuckoo being fed and tenderly cared for by its 
diminutive foster-parent, do we realise the extraordinary nature oi 
such an instinct. In spite of this ' naughtiness ' of the cuckoo, to 
speak of it in human terms, it is to all a favourite, ' the darling of 
the year,' and from the days when the oldest known English lyric 
was written 

Summer is icumen iu, 
Loud sing cuckoo, 

to the present time the poets have found inspiration in his fluting 
call ; and musicians, too, owing to that unique quality of his voice 
which makes it imitable and harmonious with human music, vocal 
and instrumental. 

The cuckoo does not usually arrive in this country before the 
middle of April, but he is sometimes two, and even three weeks 
earlier. The males arrive first, and it is they that utter the well- 
known double call that gives the bird its name. The cry of the 
female, a curious prolonged bubbling sound, is heard less frequently. 

One of the strangest facts in the strange history of this bird is 
that its egg is not laid in the nest in which it is found, but is carried 
by the cuckoo in her bill and placed there. It is very small for so 
large a bird, although much larger, in most cases, than the eggs 
it is placed with, as its favourite nests in this country are all of 
small birds the hedge-sparrow, reed-warbler, pied wagtail, and 
meadow-pipit. The eggs are very variable, being dull greenish or 
dull reddish grey, with spots and mottlings of a deeper shade. In 
some instances the cuckoo's egg resembles in colour the eggs it is 
placed with, and it is thought by some naturalists that the female 
cuckoo invariably deposits her eggs in the nests of one species. As 
a rule, only one egg is laid in a nest, and a few days after the eggs 
are hatched the young cuckoo gets rid of his foster-brothers by 



CUCKOO 198 

getting them on to his back, which is broad and hollow, and throw- 
ing them over the side of the nest. If any unhatched eggs remain 
in the nest, he gets rid of them in the same way. 

The food of the cuckoo is exclusively insectivorous, and consists 
hi large part of hairy caterpillars, which most birds refuse to touch. 
The indigestible portions of the food he swallows are cast up in 
small pellets. 

By August the old birds take their departure ; the young migrate 
one to two months later. 

No fewer than three exotic cuckoos have been placed on the list 
of British birds. Two of these are American species : the yellow- 
billed cuckoo (Coccyzua americanus) and the black-billed cuckoo 
(C. erythrophthalmus). The third is the great spotted cuckoo 
(Coccystes glandarius), an African species, which visits Spain in 
summer, and, like our bird, is parasitical, but has the habit of 
depositing its eggs in the nests of various species of the crow family. 

Barn-Owl. 
Strix flammea. 

Beak yellowish white ; upper parts light tawny yellow 
minutely variegated with brown, grey, and white ; face and lower 
plumage white, the feathers of the margin tipped with brown. 
Length, fourteen inches. 

The barn-owl is one of the very few species that have almost 
a world- wide range. It is resident throughout the British Islands, 
and inhabits the greater part of Europe ; it extends to Africa, in- 
cluding Madagascar ; to India and America, and to the Malaysian, 
Australian, and Polynesian regions ; and is found in islands so 
widely separated and far removed from the mainland as the 
Azores, Madeira, the Canaries, and Cape de Verde. The short- eared 
owl has a distribution just as wide, or even wider ; but that bird, 
wherever found, is of a wandering habit, making his home and 
breeding-place wherever food is abundant, and staying not where it 
fails hun. His action resembles, only on a vaster scale, that of the 
nomads of the human race, who break up their camp and move 
away from the district that no longer affords pasture to their cattle. 
Thus, in the case of this species, the vagrant habit may be held to 



194 



BRITISH BIRDS 



account for so extensive a range. But the barn-owl's universality 
cannot be accounted for in the same way, since he is, in most 

countries, a stay- 
at-home bird, and 
spends his whole life, 
from year's end to 
year's end, in the 
same spot. We can 
only conjecture that 
at some former and 
very remote period 
in the history of his 
species he, too, had a 
vagrant disposition ; 
or else that he is a 
very ancient bird on 
the earth, and has 
had unlimited time 
to get so widely dis- 
persed ; also, that the 
barn-owl is one of 
those rare types that 

can exist unaltered 
F.o. 66.-BABa.Ow,,. natural size. 




fa & ^ varfety rf 

conditions. One of our domestic birds, the goose, affords an instance 
of the unchangeableness of some types in all regions of the globe ; 
but the goose has been carried everywhere by adventurous white men, 
while the barn-owl, by means unknown to us, has distributed him- 
self over the earth. 

Another general remark about this most strange and fascinating 
fowl may be made in this place. The barn-owl, being so widely 
distributed, and in many countries the most common species, and 
being, furthermore, the only member of its order that attaches 
itself by preference to human habitations, and is a dweller in towns 
as well as in rural districts, is probably the chief inspirer and object of 
the innumerable ancient owl superstitions which still flourish in all 
countries among the ignorant. His blood-curdling voice, his white- 
ness, and extraordinary figure, and, when viewed by day on his 
perch in some dim interior, his luminous eyes and great round face, 
and wonderful intimidating gestures and motions, must powerfully 



BARN-OWL 195 

affect the primitive mind, for in that low intellectual state what- 
ever is strange is regarded as supernatural. 

Before sitting down to write this little history I went out into 
the woods, and was so fortunate as to hear three owls calling with 
unearthly shrieks to one another from some large fir-trees under 
which I was standing, and, listening to them, it struck me as only 
natural that in so many regions of the earth this bird should have 
been, and should still be, regarded as an evil being, a prophet of 
disaster and death. 

The barn-owl takes up his abode by preference in a building of 
some kind an old rum, a loft in a barn or an outhouse ; but above 
most sites he prefers an ivyclad church-tower, on which account 
he has been called the church-owl. He also inhabits caves and 
holes in cliffs, and hollow trees in woods. He spends the daylight 
hours, standing upright and motionless, dozing on his perch ; and, 
where he is persecuted, he does not stir abroad until dark. When 
he is not molested he leaves his hiding-place before sunset, and is 
BO little suspicious of man as to appear like a domestic bird in his 
presence. He preys on mice, rats, moles, insects, and even fish, 
which he has been observed to take in his claws from lakes 
fcnd ponds. The indigestible portions of the small animals he 
swallows the fur, feathers, bones, wing-cases, and scales are dis- 
gorged in compact round pellets about the size of a cob-nut ; and 
from an examination of a vast number of such pellets, it would 
appear that about nine-tenths of the food of this owl consists of 
mice. 

This fact is now so generally known that the owl, from being 
one of the most persecuted of birds, is becoming a general favourite ; 
and farmers who formerly shot it, and nailed it, with outspread 
wings, to their barn-doors, in order that all might see and admire their 
zeal in ridding the earth of so misshapen a pest, are now only 
anxious to have the ' feathered cats * living in their barns again. 

The owl makes no nest, and lays from two to six eggs, which 
are white and nearly round. It has the curious habit of laying two 
or three eggs, and, long after incubation has begun, laying others, 
and then others again, so that young of different ages and eggs not 
yet near hatching may be found in the nest together. The young 
make a curious snoring noise, which is their hunger cry ; and it 
has been said that this cry is also occasionally uttered by the old 
bird on the wing. 



196 BRITISH BIRDS 

Long-eared Owl. 
Asio otus. 

Beak blackish ; eyes orange -yellow ; upper parts buff, finely 
mottled with brown and grey, and streaked with dark brown, 
especially on the ear-tufts; facial disk buff, with a greyish black 
margin and outer rim; under parts warm buff and grey, with 
blackish streaks and minute transverse bars. Length, fifteen 
inches. 

The long-eared owl may be described as a bird of beautiful 
plumage. The hues of the upper parts various shades of yellow, 
buff, and brown, harmoniously disposed and something, too, in 
the indeterminate pattern, remind us of the colouring of some of 
the very handsome cats. This cat-like colouring, long tufts of ear-like 
feathers, and large, round, fiery, yellow eyes, give the bird a singular 
and uncanny appearance. As a vocalist he is less interesting than 
the two other most common British species the white owl, with 
its sepulchral shriek, and the tawny owl, with its mellow hoot that 
mysterious sound of the deep woods at eventide. The commonest 
note of the present species is a mewing cry, heard when the birds 
begin to stir from their hiding-places before going out to forage. 
It also emits at times a short, barking cry. 

The long-eared owl appears to be more gregarious than other 
species, except, perhaps, the short-eared owl. Mr. Abel Chapman 
writes : * A peculiarity of the habits of these owls after the breed- 
ing-season deserves a remark. As soon as the young were fledged 
the whole of the owls associated together, perhaps three or four 
broods, old and young, in a single family, and chose a thick black 
Scotch fir for their abode. Here they all passed the day. To this 
particular tree the whole of the owl-life oi these woods resorted 
regularly at dawn, and in it slept away the hours of daylight, 
hidden amongst the deep evergreen recesses. At the particular 
tree of their choice (it varied in different years) the owls could 
invariably be interviewed during the summer and autumn, though 
to a casual eye it was difficult, amidst the deep shadows of the 
foliage, to distinguish their slim forms, pressed closely against the 
brown branches of the pine. Towards dusk their awakening was 
notified by the querulous cat-like cry ; ten minutes later their 



LONG-EARED OWL 197 

silent forms appeared outside the wood, and, after a few rounds of 
preliminary gyrations, it was dark enough to commence operations 
in earnest.' 

Field-mice and rats are its principal food ; it also preys a good 
deal on insects, and kills more small birds than does the white owl. 
It is an early breeder, laying its eggs in the deserted nest of a crow, 
magpie, rook, or heron, or in a squirrel's drey, or even making use 
of the slight platform-nest of the wood-pigeon. The eggs are four 
to six in number, nearly round in shape, and have smooth white 
shells. 

Short-eared Owl. 
Asio brachyotus. 

Face whitish; beak black; iris yellow; tufts on the head 
small, composed of black feathers ; eyes encircled by brownish 
black ; upper parts dusky brown edged with yellow ; under parts 
dull yellow streaked with brown. Length, fifteen inches. 

In its habits the short -eared owl offers a strong contrast to the 
species last described. It is a bird of the moors and fens, laying its 
eggs on the ground, and never, or very seldom, perches on trees. 
In appearance it is less owl-like and uncanny-looking than the long- 
eared owl, the colouring and markings being less rich, the head 
smaller, and the ear-tufts so small that at a distance of twenty-five 
yards they are scarcely visible. It is migratory in its habits, and 
as it arrives on the east coast at the same time as the woodcock, it 
is often called the woodcock-owl. 

As a winter visitant it is found in most places in the British 
Islands, but it breeds with us only hi Scotland and a few localities 
in the north of England. As I have said in the history of the 
barn-owl, the present species ranges over a large portion of the 
globe, and on the continent of America it is found from Greenland 
to the Straits of Magellan. It is not so nocturnal in its habits as 
the majority of owls, and may often be seen, an hour or two before 
sunset, beating over the rough ground like a hen harrier in search 
of prey. It feeds on small rodents of all kinds, and on birds. The 
eggs are three to five in number, and in some instances as many 
as seven or eight are laid, and are placed in a slight clearing among 
the herbage on marshy ground, or under the heather on a moor. 

There is some variety in the language of this species : it hisses 



198 BRITISH BIBDS 

and makes a sharp clicking sound when angry, and has a loud, 
startling cry, a note repeated three or four times, like a ghostly 
laugh ; and it also hoots, this performance sounding like the baying 
of a dog in the distance. 

An interesting and curious fact in the history of this owl is that 
it is known to appear, often in considerable numbers, in any 
district where, owing to a great increase of field-mice or other small 
rodents, its favourite food is for the time abundant. This pheno- 
menon has been observed in various parts of the world, in this 
country on several occasions ; and during the late great plague of 
short-tailed voles in the south of Scotland (1891-92), large numbers 
of short-eared owls appeared, and remained to breed in the 
district. As long as the plague lasted they remained in the 
country, and were most prolific. When the voles disappeared the 
owls departed. 

Tawny Owl. 
Syrnium aluco. 

Beak greyish yellow ; iris bluish dusky ; upper parts reddish 
brown, variously marked and spotted with dark brown, black, and 
grey ; large white spots on the scapulars and wing-coverts ; primaries 
and tail-feathers barred alternately with dark and reddish brown ; 
under parts reddish white, with transverse brown bars and longitu- 
dinal dusky streaks ; legs feathered to the claws. Length, sixteen 
inches. 

The tawny owl, named also brown owl and wood-owl, is by a 
little the largest of the four British species. In his colouring, as 
well as his woodland habits, he comes nearest to the long-eared 
owl, but he has no ear-tufts like that bird to add to his strangeness, 
nor is he in appearance so ghostly and grotesque as the white owl. 
This species alone of the British owls is unknown in Ireland. In 
England, Wales, and the south of Scotland it is to be met with in 
all well-wooded districts, and in some localities it is said to be the 
most common owl. But, unhappily, in many places where it was 
formerly common it has been extirpated by gamekeepers. Owls 
are not very social birds, and the tawny owl is the most unsocial of 
all. He inhabits the deep wood, where he lives solitary or with his 
mate, and he is said to be very jealous of the intrusion of another 
individual of his species into his hunting-grounds. His chief dis- 



TAWNY OWL 199 

tinction is his powerful, clear voice : heard in the profound silence 
of the woods at eventide the sound is wonderfully impressive, and 
affects us with a sense of mystery. This may be due to imagina- 
tion, or to some primitive faculty in us, since the feeling is strong 
only when we are alone. If we are in a merry company, then the 
wood-owl's too-whit, too-who, may even seem to us ' a merry note,' 
as Shakespeare described it. 

The tawny owl sometimes breeds, like the barn-owl, hi ruins, 
outhouses, disused chimneys, and such places ; but the usual site is 
a hollow tree, all the more liked if it is overgrown with ivy. Some- 
times he takes possession of a deserted nest of a magpie or crow to 
breed in. The three or four eggs laid are white, and nearly round 
in shape. 

The tawny owl is strictly nocturnal in habits, and preys on mice, 
rats, moles, young rabbits, squirrels, and birds ; and he also, like 
most owls, occasionally takes fish. 

Besides the species described, no fewer than seven others have 
been included in books on British birds, and if these seven were not 
rare accidental visitors to our island we should indeed be rich in 
owls. It will be sufficient to give their names : 

Snowy owl (Nyctea scandiacd). 

European hawk-owl (Surnia ulula). 

American hawk-owl (Surnia funeria). 

Tengmalm's owl (Nyctala tengmalmi). 

Scops owl (Scops giu). 

Eagle owl (Bubo ignavus). 

Little owl (Athene noctud). 

It is possible that the last species may one day come to be ranked 
as a British bird, like the pheasant and red-legged partridge, as 
several attempts have been made to introduce it into this country, 
first by Waterton, in 1843 ; and, in recent years, by Mr. W. H. St. 
Quintin in Yorkshire, and Mr. Meade-Waldo in Hampshire. 

Hen Harrier. 
Circus cyaneus. 

Upper parts of adult male bluish grey ; lower parts white ; beak 
black ; irides reddish brown ; legs and feet yellow ; claws black. 
Female : upper parts reddish brown ; under parts pale reddish 



200 BEITISH BIRDS 

yellow, with deep orange -brown, longitudinal streaks and spots. 
Length : male, eighteen inches ; female, twenty inches. 

This very handsome and graceful hawk was fairly common 
within recent times in the British Islands. But the incessant 
persecution of all birds of prey by game -preservers is having its 
effect. It is plain to see that as British species they are being ex- 
tirpated ; and the first to vanish are the harriers, owing to their 
fatal habit of breeding in the open country on the ground. For while 
most birds have a close time allowed them, the hawks are sought 
out and destroyed, old and young, during the breeding season. 
Thus the marsh-harrier, which should have come first in this place, 
is now extinct in this country, and cannot be introduced into a work 
on British birds which does not include the great auk, the bustard, 
the spoonbill, and many other species which have been exterminated 
in England. The hen harrier is at the present time very nearly in 
the same case ; it is only included here because a few pairs probably 
still breed on the wildest and most extensive moors in Wales, the 
north of England, and the Highlands of Scotland. 

The nest is a slight hollow in the ground, scantily lined with a 
little dry grass ; and the eggs are four or five, and rarely six, in 
number. These are pale bluish white in colour, and in some cases 
have pale brown markings. 

The male hen harrier, seen on the whig when quartering the ground 
in quest of prey, keeping but a few feet above the surface, is certainly 
one of our handsomest hawks. Its flight, although not wavering, is 
as buoyant as that of the common tern, and the pale colouring soft 
blue-grey above and white beneath seems in harmony with its 
slender figure and airy, graceful motions. On account of its blue 
colour it has been called the dove-hawk. It preys on small birds, 
mammals, and reptiles, dropping suddenly upon them in the manner 
of the kestrel, but from a less height. The origin of its name of hen 
harrier is not known. Yarrell conjectured that it was on account 
of its predilection for the produce of the farmyard ; which seems 
unlikely, as the harriers are usually hunters of very small deer. 
A more probable explanation is that the male bird was formerly 
supposed to be the female of the ringtail-harrier ; but we know now 
that the hen harrier is the cock bird, and the ringtail the hen. 



MONTAGU'S HAEEIER 



201 



Montagu's Harrier, 
Circus cineraceus. 




FIG. 67. MONTAGU'S HARKIER. | natural size. 

Upper parts bluish grey ; primaries black ; secondaries with 
three transverse dark bars ; lateral tail-feathers white barred with 
reddish orange : under parts white variously streaked with reddish 
orange. Female : upper parts brown of various tints ; under parts 
pale reddish yellow, with longitudinal bright red streaks. Beak 
black ; legs and feet yellow. Length, eighteen inches. 

This hawk was named by Yarrell after the well-known orni- 
thologist, Colonel Montagu, who was the first to distinguish between 
this species and the hen harrier, which it so closely resembles. 
Seen on the wing at a distance of two to three hundred yards, the 
sharpest -sighted ornithologist would probably be unable to say 
whether the bird was a hen harrier or a Montagu's harrier. The 
present species is slimmer bodied ; but, owing to the greater com- 
parative length of its wings, it appears, when flying, as large as 
the hen harrier. It is a spring and summer visitor to this country, 
and in its flight, and preying and breeding habits, closely resembles 



202 



BRITISH BIRDS 



the species last described. Small birds, mammals, reptiles, and 
insects form its prey. It breeds, or formerly bred, in suitable locali- 
ties in most English counties from the south coast northwards to 
Norfolk, making its slight nest on the ground, among the furze- 
bushes or heather. The eggs resemble those of the hen harrier in 
colouring, but are smaller in size. 

Buzzard. 

Buteo vulgaris. 




FIG. 68. BUZZARD. 



natural size. 



Upper parts, neck, and head dark brown mottled with brown 
of a darker shade ; tail marked with twelve transverse bands ; 
beak lead-coloured ; cere, irides, and feet 'yellow. Length : male, 
twenty inches ; female, twenty-two inches. 

It is impossible for anyone who loves wild bird life to write about 
the buzzard without a feeling of profound melancholy. For this hawk, 



BUZZ AE D 203 

too, like the harriers, although once common, and still called ID 
books the common buzzard, is a vanishing species. Howard 
Saunders writes : * Fifty years ago it used to breed in Norfolk and 
in other counties abounding in partridges and ground game, without 
being considered incompatible with their existence ; but with the 
increase of pheasant-worship the doom of the buzzard was sealed, 
for, the larger the " hawk," the worse it must necessarily be 1 ' 

My one consolation in this sad portion of my work, which tells 
of the noble and useful species whose ' doom is sealed,' is, that I am 
not writing for grown men, but for the young, who are not yet the 
slaves of a contemptible convention, nor have come under a system 
which has been only too mildly described as ' stupid ' by every 
British ornithologist during the last five or six decades. 

This once common bird is now almost unknown hi England, 
and must be sought for in the wildest forest districts of Wales and 
Scotland. It is of a somewhat sedentary disposition, and in seeking 
its food displays little of the dashing and courageous spirit of the 
falcons. Small mammals, especially moles, reptiles, birds of various 
kinds, and insects, are its prey, which in all cases it drops upon and 
seizes on the ground. It is strongly attached to one favourite spot, 
and will return day after day to the same perch, where it will sit 
for hours at a stretch. All the buzzards show best when flying, 
and the appearance of the present species was thus described by 
Sir William Jardine : ' The flight is slow and majestic ; the birds 
rise in easy and graceful gyrations, often to an immense height, 
uttering occasionally their shrill and melancholy whistle. At this 
tune, to a spectator underneath, and in particular lights, they appear 
of immense size ; the motions of the tail when directing the circles 
may be plainly perceived, as well as the beautiful markings on it 
and the wings, sometimes rendered very plain and distinct by the 
body being thrown upwards, and the light falling on the clear and 
silvery tints of the base of the feathers. The buzzard is a fine 
accompaniment to the landscape, whether sylvan or wild and rocky.' 

It nests both on crags and in forest trees, and sometimes makes 
use of the. old nest of some other bird. The nest is of sticks, and 
is sometimes very large, lined with wool or some other soft mate- 
rial, and often with green leaves. Two to four eggs are laid, but 
three is the usual number. They vary from white, suffused with 
reddish brown, to bluish green, spotted, streaked, and clouded with 
reddish brown, with purple-grey under- markings. 



204 BEITISH BIRDS 



Golden Eagle. 
Aquila chrysaetus. 

Head, back of the neck, and legs lustrous reddish brown ; the 
rest of the body dark brown ; primaries nearly black ; secondaries 
brownish black ; tail dark grey, barred and tipped with brownish 
black ; beak bluish at the base, black at the extremity ; iris brown ; 
cere and feet yellow ; claws bluish black. Length of male, three 
feet. 

This noblest of the British birds of prey used at one time to 
breed in some localities in England and Wales, but it has gradually 
retreated farther and farther north, and is now restricted (as a 
breeder) to the Highlands and the western islands of Scotland. 
Fortunately, it now receives protection from the owners of large deer- 
forests in its northern habitat, and there is reason to hope that it 
will long continue to exist as a British species. 

This species is very dark in hue, and is known in Scotland as the 
' black eagle.' The colour is a very deep brown, the feathers of the 
head and nape tinged with reddish gold hence its name of golden 
eagle. It preys on hares, rabbits, grouse, ptarmigan, and other 
birds, and occasionally destroys lambs and fawns, and will even 
attack full-grown ewes and deer. 

The nest is a bulky structure of sticks, placed, as a rule, on a 
crag, sometimes in a tree, and the same nest is used year after year. 
Two or three eggs are laid, white or pale bluish green in ground- 
colour, blotched, spotted, and clouded with reddish brown and 
purple -grey under-markings. 

Owing to his great size, dark colour, and power of wing, this 
eagle makes a very noble figure when flying. But he is noble in 
appearance at other tunes as well, and in this he differs from many 
of the larger species that are equally strong on the whig, or even 
much stronger condors, vultures, albatrosses, and others. These, 
when they fold their pinions, lose all their majesty. But the 
golden eagle has just as grand a presence when perched as when soar- 
ing. The pleasure produced in us by the sight of this creature appears 
to differ in character from that which we find in contemplating such 
species as excel in elegance and grace, or in rich colouring the 
mute swan glassed in the water it floats upon, and the peacock with 



GOLDEN EAGLE 205 

splendid starry train. He is built on different lines, that indicate 
power and rapine ; but his appearance hi repose is not less attractive 
than theirs, and, in a sense, not less beautiful. Tennyson, in a few 
well-known lines, has described it better, perhaps, than any other 
writer the majestic bird and the nature it inhabits, and is in harmony 
with its sublimity and desolation : 

He grasps the crag with hooked hands ; 
Close to the sun in lonely lands, 
Hinged by the azure world he stands. 

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls : 
He watches from his mountain walls, 
And like a jthunderbolt he falls. 



White-tailed Eagle. 
Haliaetus albicilla. 

Upper parts brown, head and neck lightest; under parts 
chocolate-brown ; tail white ; bill, cere, and feet yellowish white ; 
claws black. In the young the tail is brown. Length of the male, 
two feet four inches ; of the female, two feet ten inches. 

Immature specimens of the white-tailed, or sea-eagle, or erne, 
are from time to time obtained in England during the autumn and 
winter months. They are, probably, in nearly all cases migrants 
from northern Europe on their way south. The British race the 
sea-eagles that bred formerly in many localities on the coasts of 
Scotland and Ireland, and hi the- northern islands is now all but- 
extinct. The bird no longer breeds anywhere on the mainland, 
and but one or two pairs are known to inhabit the islands. 

The sea-eagle has a more varied dietary than the species last 
described, and he hunts for food both on sea and land. In his 
habits he is by turns osprey, falcon, and raven. Like the osprey, 
he drops from a considerable height on to a fish seen near the sur- 
face, and, striking his talons into it, bears it away to land. But he 
preys more on puffins, guillemots, and other sea-fowl, than on fish. 
Like the golden eagle, he destroys mountain hares, grouse, and 
ptarmigan, and is regarded by the shepherd as the worst enemy to 
the flock. But the shepherd has his revenge, for the erne is a great 
lover of carrion, and may be easily poisoned. 



206 BRITISH BIRDS 

The breeding habits of this species are similar to those of the 
golden eagle. The eggs, two hi number, are white, without markings. 

Its yelping cry is very powerful, and shriller than the scream of 
the golden eagle. 

Sparrow- Hawk. 

Accipiter nisus. 

Upper parts dark bluish grey, with a white spot on the nape ; 
under parts reddish white, transversely barred with deep brown ; 
tail grey, barred with brownish black ; beak blue, lightest at the 
base ; cere, irides, and feet yellow. Female : upper parts brown, 
passing into blackish grey ; under parts greyish white, barred with 
dark grey. Length of male, twelve inches ; of female, fifteen 
inches. 

The sparrow-hawk is found in wooded districts hi all parts of 
Great Britain and Ireland, and is, perhaps, the most generally dif- 
fused species of the diurnal birds of prey in this country, and, com- 
pared with most other species, may be said to be almost common. 
In reality it is becoming rare ; which is not strange considering that, 
next to the carrion crow, it is the most persecuted of all the feathered 
creatures whose existence is an offence to the gamekeeper. In 
YarrelTs ' British Birds ' it is said that the female sparrow-hawk is, 
indeed, the only bird of prey which the game-preserver nowadays 
need fear ; and there is no doubt that it is immeasurably more de- 
structive to the chicks of pheasant and partridge than any other 
raptor. It preys by preference on birds, as the kestrel does on 
mice, and in pursuit is capable of rapid flight and quick doublings ; 
but its chases are short and near the surface of the earth. In habits 
it is a prowler, a stealthy flier among woods, by coppices and 
hedges, and takes its victims by surprise. It also dashes suddenly 
on them from its perch, where it has stood concealed by the foliage, 
keeping a sharp watch on the feathered creatures in its vicinity, 

The sparrow-hawk is said to make a nest for itself, but it is more 
probable that in nearly all cases it takes possession of an old nest of 
some other bird. The eggs are four or five in number, and some- 
times six, pale bluish white in ground-colour, blotched and spotted 
with various shades of reddish brown. 



KITE 



207 



Kite. 

Milvus ictinus. 




Fio. 69. KITE. ^ natural size. 

Upper parts reddish brown ; the feathers with pale edges, those 
of the head and neck long, and tapering to a point, greyish white, 
streaked lengthways with brown; under parts rust-colour with 
longitudinal brown streaks ; tail reddish orange, barred indistinctly 
with brown ; beak horn-colour ; cere, irides, and feet yellow ; claws 
black. Female : upper parts a deeper brown, the feathers pale at 
the extremity ; head and neck white. Length, twenty-five inches. 



The kite, or glead, is another melancholy example of the effect 
of the pitiless persecution of some of our finest birds by game-pre- 



208 BBITISH BIRDS 

servers, and, as the species became rare, by collectors of British- 
killed ' specimens and * British-taken ' eggs. Once a commoii species 
in the British Islands, it is now reduced to a miserable remnant, 
composed of a few breeding pairs hi Wales and Scotland. 

Among the various types of diurnal birds of prey, the kite is one 
of the finest ; the great extent of his sharp-pointed wings and his 
long, forked tail, fit him for an aerial life. In appearance he is a 
swallow-shaped eagle ; and few birds equal him in grace and 
majesty of motion when he soars at a vast height. Like the eagles, 
buzzards, and other strong-fliers among the raptors, he soars for 
exercise and recreation ; but, vulture-like, when soaring he is ever 
on the watch for a meal. And, like the vulture, he will feed on 
garbage ; for though of so noble an appearance, and possessed of 
such great power, he has, compared with the falcons, a poor spirit, 
and his name is a term of reproach that signifies cowardice and 
rapacity. A carrion-eater, he also preys on small mammals, reptiles, 
and birds, in most cases the young, the sickly, or wounded. 

The nest of the kite is placed in a tree, and is a bulky structure 
of sticks, mixed with much rubbish bones, turf, scraps of paper, 
and old rags and is lined with wool and moss. Two to four eggs 
are laid, three being the usual number. In size, colour, and mark- 
ings they closely resemble those of the buzzard. 

Peregrine Falcon. 
Falco peregrinus. 

Upper parts dark bluish grey, with darker bands ; head bluish 
black, as are also the moustaches descending from the gape ; under 
parts white ; breast transversely barred with brown ; beak blue, 
darker at the point ; cere yellow ; iris dark brown ; feet yellow ; 
claws black. Female: upper plumage tinged with brown, the 
under parts with reddish yellow. Length, fifteen inches ; female, 
seventeen inches. 

This famed bird is of a handsome appearance, not swallow-like 
as is the kite, nor so massive as the eagle ; but nature hi fashioning 
it has observed the golden mean, and the result is a being so well- 
balanced in all its parts and so admirably adapted for speed, strength, 
and endurance, that to many minds it has seemed the most perfect 
among winged creatures. When standing perched on a crag, erect 



PEBEGBINE FALCON 



209 



and motionless, as its custom is, its smooth and compact figure 
looks as if carved out of a stone or marble of a beautiful soft 
grey tint. The wings are sharp-pointed, and the flight is ex. 
ceedingly rapid. In South America, where I first observed its 
habits, it used always to seem to me that the peregrine, alone 
among hawks, possessed a courage commensurate with its strength ; 
and, in hunting, an infallible judgment. However swift of wing 
its quarry might be, it was almost invariably overtaken and 



^mmk 

_ji 



m 




FIG. 70. PBBEGBINE. ^ natural size. 

struck to the earth ; and tho bird thus vanquished was in many 
cases the equal, and sometimes even the superior, in weight to the 
falcon. All other hawks make frequent mistakes, and often fail in 
their efforts: they chase birds they cannot overtake, and attack 
others that are too strong for them ; and occasionally their courage 
fails, and they pass by the healthy and strong to attack the wounded 
or weak that are incapable of making an effort. 

In the British Islands the peregrine is an inhabitant of the iron- 
bound coasts, where it is still able to find comparatively safe 



210 BRITISH BIRDS 

breeding- sites. It makes no nest, the eggs being deposited i& a 
slight hollow scratched in the soil on a ledge of a cliff. When it 
breeds in a tree it makes use of the deserted nest of some other bird. 
Two to four eggs are laid, yellowish white in ground-colour, mottled 
and spotted with reddish brown and orange-brown. 

The peregrine preys almost exclusively on birds ducks, waders, 
pigeons, grouse, partridges and it has been seen to kill kestrels, 
jays, and magpies. 

It has a sharp, powerful cry, uttered two or three times in rapid 
succession on the wing. 

Hobby. 

Falco subbuteo. 

Upper parts bluish black ; under parts reddish yellow with 
longitudinal brown streaks; moustaches broad, black; lower tail- 
coverts and legs reddish ; beak bluish, dark at the tip ; cere 
greenish yellow; iris dark brown; feet yellow; claws black. 
Female : colours less bright, and the streaks below broader. Length, 
twelve to fourteen inches. 

The hobby in appearance is a lesser peregrine, being about one- 
fifth smaller than that bird. It differs from the peregrine in having 
a softer plumage and a comparatively greater length of whig. It 
is probably the fastest flier among rapacious birds, being capable of 
the marvellous feat of capturing swallows and martins in the air. 
It is a summer visitant to this country, and is most often met with 
in the southern counties of England, where, however, it is a 
rare species; and the farther north we go the rarer it becomes. 
In Scotland it is not known to breed, and it does not range to 
Ireland. It inhabits woods, and breeds hi an old nest of the carrion 
crow, jay, or some other bird, which it does not re-line. Three eggs 
are usually laid, and in some rare instances four or five. In size 
and colour they are not distinguishable from those of the kestrel. 

The hobby is a spirited bird, but in courage and power greatly 
inferior to the peregrine. He preys principally on dragon-flies, 
beetles, and other large insects, and on small birds, such as skylarks 
and buntings. In falconry, the hobby was trained to fly at such 
small game as larks, snipe, and quail. 



MERLIN 



211 



Merlin. 
Falco sesalon. 

Upper parts 
greyish blue ; under 
parts reddish yellow 
with longitudinal 
dark brown spots ; 
tail barred with 
black; beak bluish, 
darker at the tip ; 
cere yellow ; iris 
dark brown ; feet 
yellow ; claws black. 
Female : upper parts 
tinged with brown ; 
lower parts yellow- 
ish white. Length, 
eleven to twelve 
inches. 

The merlin is a 
third less than the 
peregrine hi size, and 
has the distinction of being the smallest of the British birds of prey, 
But in courage it is second to none, and Yarrell relates an instance 
hi which this small bird, weighing itself no more than six ounces, 
struck down and killed a partridge twice as heavy. It is a resident 
throughout the year of the British Islands, from the north of 
Yorkshire to the Shetlands, and the mountainous parts of Ireland. 

The merlin iS an inhabitant of the moors and mountains, and 
nests on the ground among the tall heather. The eggs are laid in a 
slight hollow with little or no lining, and are four or five hi number, 
smaller than those of the kestrel, but similar in colour. It some- 
times, but very rarely, breeds in the nest of a carrion crow or other 
bird, in a tree. 

It preys chiefly on small birds, and it was formerly trained to 
pursue snipe, pigeons, larks, blackbirds, &c. 




FIG. 71. MERLIN. natural size. 



BRITISH BIRDS 



Kestrel, or Windhover. 

Tinnunculus alaudarius. 




Upper plumage, neck, 
and breast dark lead- 
grey ; sides, under tail- 
coverts, and thighs light 
yellowish red, with longi- 
tudinal, narrow, dark 
streaks ; beak blue ; cere 
and feet yellow ; irides 
brown ; claws black. 
Female: upper plumage 
and tail light red, with 
transverse spots and bars 
of dark brown; lower 
parts paler than in the 
male. Length, fifteen 
inches. 

The kestrel is the best 
known of the British 
hawks, not only because 
it is the most common 

species, but also because its peculiar preying habits bring it more 
into notice. It is resident and found throughout the United 
Kingdom, but undoubtedly possesses a partial migration, as it 
wholly disappears from some northern districts in the winter, 
and at the same season becomes more abundant in the southern 
counties. 

When in quest of prey the kestrel has the habit of stopping 
suddenly in its rapid flight, and remaining for some time motionless 
in mid-air, suspended' on its rapidly-beating wings, usually at a height 
of twenty or thirty yards above the surface. This habit, which has 
won for the species the appropriate name of windhover, is unique 
among British hawks. It is this peculiar aerial feat which makes 
the kestrel, when seen on the whig, so familiar a figure to country- 
people. The instant that the bird pauses in his swift-rushing flight 
you know that it is a kestrel, although it may be at such a distance 



FIQ. 72. KESTREL, i natural size. 



KESTREL 213 

as to appear a mere spot, a small moving shadow, against the sky. 
jft has shorter wings than other falcons, and, by consequence, a 
more rapid and violent flight. 

The kestrel preys chiefly on mice and field- voles ; occasionally 
it takes a small bird, and carries off young, tender chicks, if they 
come in its way ; but it certainly does not deserve its scientific name 
of alaudarius (a feeder on larks), which would have fitted the 
hobby better. It also preys on frogs and coleopterous insects. Selby 
relates that a kestrel was observed late one evening pursuing the 
cockchafers, dashing at them and seizing one in each claw, eating 
them in the air, and then returning to the charge. When on the 
wing the kestrel's downward-gazing eyes are constantly on the look- 
out for the mice that lurk on the surface, and as mice are usually well 
concealed by the grass and herbage, the eyes must indeed be wonder- 
*illy sharp to detect them. After remaining suspended for some 
seconds, sometimes for half a minute, or longer, during which the 
bird watches the ground below, he dashes down upon his prey, or 
flies on without descending, as if satisfied that what had been taken 
for a mouse had turned out to be something different. 

When thus hovering motionless the wings are seen to beat rapidly 
for a few seconds, then to become fixed and rigid for a moment 
or two, after which the beating motion is renewed. A short 
time ago I watched a kestrel thus hovering hi the face of a very 
violent wind, and it struck me that this suspension of the wings' 
motion in such circumstances was very extraordinary and hard to 
explain. One can understand that, even in the face of a violent 
gale, the bird is able to maintain its motionless position by sheer 
muscular power ; but how happened it that in the short intervals, 
when the outspread wings became fixed and motionless, the bird 
was not instantly blown from its position ? 

In its breeding habits the kestrel, like the starling and jackdaw, 
has a partiality for towers and lofty ruins, and it also nests in 
holes in rocks and hollow trees. In woods it frequently takes 
possession of a disused nest of a crow or magpie. The eggs are 
four or five, blotched with dull red on a reddish white ground ; and 
in many eggs the ground-colour is quite covered with red. 

The kestrel, among British birds of prey, is a favourite with the 
ornithologist hi virtue of its interesting habits ; and it deserves to 
be equally esteemed by the farmer on account of its usefulness. 
It is, indeed, the only bird of diurnal habits that wages incessant 
warfare against the prolific and injurious mice, and thus carries on 



214 BRITISH BIRDS 

by day the task of keeping down a pest which those ' feathered cats,' 
the owls, so efficiently pursue at night. 

The kestrel is easier to tame, and, when tame, more docile and 
affectionate, than most hawks, and many accounts have appeared 
in print of the bird and its ways in the domestic condition ; but, to 
my mind, not one so interesting as the history of a pet kestrel 
kept a few years since by some friends of mine. The bird was 
young when it came into 'their hands, and was lovingly cared for, 
and made free of a large house and park, and of the whole wide 
country beyond. And it made good use of its liberty. As a rule, 
every morning it would fly away and disappear from sight until the 
evening, when, some time before sunset, it would return, dash in 
at the open door, and perch on some elevated situation a cornice, 
or bust, or on the top of a large picture-frame. Invariably at dinner- 
time it flew to the dining-room, and would then settle on the 
shoulder of its master or mistress, to be fed with small scraps of 
meat. This pleasant state of things lasted for about three years, 
during which time the bird always roosted in, or somewhere near, 
the house, flew abroad by day, to return faithfully every evening to 
his loving human friends to be caressed, and fed, and made much 
of ; and it might have continued several years longer, down to the 
present time, if the bird's temper had not suffered a mysterious 
change. All at once, for no reason that anyone could guess, he 
became subject to the most extraordinary outbreaks of ill-temper, 
and in such a state he would, on his return from his daily wander- 
ings abroad, violently attack some person in the room. Up till this 
time he had preferred his master and mistress to any other member 
of the household, and had shown an equal attachment to both ; 
now he would single out one or other of these his best friends 
for his most violent attacks ; and, very curiously, on the day when 
he attacked his master he would display the usual affection towards 
his mistress, but on the next day would reverse the process. 
And his hostility was not to be despised : rising up into the air to a 
good height, he would dash down with great force on to the 
obnoxious person's head, often inflicting a lacerating blow with his 
claws. More than once, the lady told me, after one of these cutting, 
ungrateful blows on her forehead her face was bathed in blood. 

It is pleasant to be able to relate that no feeling of resentment 
or alarm was excited by this behaviour on the part of the bird ; 
that he was never deprived of his sweet liberty or treated with less 
gentleness than before. It was hoped and believed that be would 



KESTREL 215 

outgrow the savage fit, and if he had confined his virulent attacks 
to his master and mistress it would have been well with him. 
Unfortunately for him, he attacked others who were made of 
poorer clay. One evening at dinner the butler, while occupied 
with his duties, was struck savagely on the wrist by the kestrel. 
Like a well-trained servant, he did not wince or cry out, but 
marched stolidly round the table, pouring out wine, anxious only 
to conceal the blood that trickled from his wounds. But on the 
following day the bird was missing, and was never afterwards seen 
or heard of. 

Osprey. 
Pandion haliaetus. 

Feathers of the head and neck white with dark centres; on 
each side of the neck a streak of blackish brown, extending down- 
wards ; upper plumage generally deep brown ; under parts white, 
tinged here and there with yellow, and on the breast marked with 
arrow-shaped spots ; tail-feathers barred with dusky ; cere and beak 
dark grey ; iris yellow. Length, two feet. 

The osprey, like the sea-eagle, hen harrier, and kite, is one of 
the species that linger with us on the verge of extinction ; and it 
may linger for many years, as in the case of the avocet, the black- 
tailed godwit, and the ruff, after these species had been reduced 
to a few breeding pairs ; and, on the other hand, it may be gone 
to-morrow. That it will remain permanently as a member of the 
British avifauna is scarcely to be hoped. 

The osprey, like the peregrine falcon and the short-eared owl, 
has an immense range, and inhabits Europe, Africa, the greater 
part of Asia, Japan, Formosa, the Australian region, New Guinea, 
and America. With us it appears in autumn as a migrant in 
small numbers ; but the birds of the British race are now reduced 
to one or two pairs that breed annually in the Highlands of Scot- 
land, and are strictly protected in their summer haunts. 

The osprey feeds exclusively on fish, which it drops upon like a 
tern or gannet ; but, falcon-like, it strikes with its feet, and, with its 
slippery prey gripped firmly in its sharp, crooked talons, it flies 
back to land. 

The nest is usually placed in a tree, and is very large, formed of 
sticks, and lined with moss. Two or three eggs are laid, white or 

Q 



216 BE1TISH BIEDS 

buff in ground-colour, blotched with rich chestnut-red, and purple- 
grey underlying marks. 

Besides the twelve species of the order Accipitres described, all 
of which breed in the British Islands, there are fourteen others, 
which, although described as British in the standard ornithological 
works, are only occasional or accidental visitors or stragglers to 
our shores. There are two vultures to be mentioned : the griffon 
vulture (Gyps fulvus), an inhabitant of Southern Europe, Africa, 
and Asia, once obtained in Ireland ; and the Egyptian vulture 
(Neophron percnopterus), an inhabitant of Southern Europe and 
Africa, twice obtained. The next species is the marsh-harrier^ 
(Circus <zrugino8us), once abundant throughout Great Britain and 
Ireland, now, unhappily, extinct as a British species. This harrier, 
which was also called the moor-buzzard, is a graceful, handsome 
bird : the head creamy white ; upper parts brown ; beneath, buff, 
streaked with brown and chestnut ; part of the wing and the tail 
silvery grey. In its buoyant flight and preying and nesting habits 
it resembles the hen harrier, but frequents fens and marshes instead 
of moors and uplands. 

The rough-legged buzzard (Archibuteo lagopus) is an irregular 
visitor, chiefly in autumn and whiter, from the northern parts of 
Europe. It differs from the common buzzard in having its legs 
feathered to the toes hence the specific name, lagopus rough- 
footed like a hare. This species is of more frequent occurrence in the 
British Islands than any other occasional visitor among the diurnal 
raptors, and in some years it appears hi considerable numbers. 

The spotted eagle (Aquila clanga), known to us as a rare occa- 
sional visitor, breeds in the forests of central and south-eastern 
Europe. More interesting to us is the goshawk (Astur palumbcurius) , 
since this fine bird of prey, although now a very rare straggler to 
Great Britain, is believed to have been formerly an indigenous 
species, and to have bred in Scotland down to the beginning of the 
present century. In form, colouring, and manner of preying it 
resembles the sparrow-hawk, but is nearly double the size of that 
bird, and flies at very much larger game. 

The American goshawk has been included in the list of British 
birds on * somewhat slight evidence,' as the author of the ' Manual 
of British Birds ' says. The black kite (Milvus nigrcms) is an 
African species, a summer visitant to Europe south of the Baltic, 
and has once been obtained in Great Britain. The swallow-tailed 



HONEY-B UZZARD 



217 



kite (Elanoides fiwcatus), an American species, which I once had 
the pleasure of seeing (not in a glass case, but sitting on a tree, and 
soaring in the air), has also been found as a straggler in this 
country. The honey-buzzard (Pernis apivorus) is a third species 
of hawk in this list which has disappeared from this country. Like 
the hobby and the osprey, it is (or was) a summer visitant, and has 
been known to breed in most English and Scottish counties from 




FIG. 73. HONEY-BUZZARD. |L natural size. 

Hampshire to Aberdeenshire. Up to within four or live years ago 
a few pairs continued to return to us each summer, but these, too, 
have now vanished. This fine large hawk, in size the equal of the 
common buzzard, lived almost entirely on insect food, wasps and 
wild bees especially hence its name of honey-buzzard. 

The remaining species to be noticed are all true falcons : the 
gyrfalcon (Hierofalco gyrfalco), an inhabitant of arctic Scandinavia, 
only once obtained in this country ; the Greenland falcon (Hiero- 
falco candican8)j a wanderer to this country from north-west 
America and Greenland ; the Iceland falcon (Hierofalco islandicus), 
a wanderer from Iceland; the red-footed falcon (Tinmvncului 
vesper tinus), an occasional visitor from the warm countries of 
Europe ; and the lesser kestrel (Tinnunculus cenchris), a visitor 
from southern Europe, where it breeds. 



218 



BRITISH BIRDS 



Cormorant. 
Phalacrocorax carbo. 




Fio. 74. CORMORANT. 



natural size. 



Upper head and neck black, striated with hair-like white feathers, 
those on the occiput being elongated, and forming a crest in spring ; 
throat white ; gular pouch yellow ; mantle black and bronze- 
brown ; all the other parts black, except a white patch on the thigh, 
assumed early in spring and lost in summer ; iris emerald-green. 
Female : larger than the male, brighter in colour, and with longer 
crest. Length, three feet. 

To those who know it slightly the cormorant is a big, sombre, 
ugly bird, heavy and awkward in his motions out of the water, and, 
when breeding, disgusting in his habits. He improves on a closer 
acquaintance. He may be easily tamed, and makes an intelligent, 
and sometimes very amusing, pet, and is capable of being trained 



CORMORANT 219 

to catch fish for his keeper. He is most frequently met with on the 
sea and seashore, but is an inhabitant of inland waters as well, 
and sometimes breeds beside them, making his nest on the ground 
or in a tree. He feeds exclusively on fishes and eels, which he 
captures by diving and pursuing them under water, sometimes for 
considerable distances. The bird is proverbial for its voracity. Its 
* swallow ' is probably the largest of any bird of its size a fish 
fourteen inches long has been taken from its gullet. When swim- 
ming he presents a curious appearance : his body, as if too heavy for 
the element it floats in, sinks like a waterlogged boat, until the 
flat back is on a level with the surface. When alarmed, he sinks 
his body deeper and deeper at will, until the head and long neck 
alone appear, looking like the head and neck of a serpent swimming 
with body submerged. When resting on a rock after feeding cormo- 
rants stand very erect and motionless, their long, hooked beaks much 
raised, and at such tunes they present a heavy, ungainly appearance. 
They are fond of opening their wings out to their greatest extent to 
dry their feathers, and remain for a long time in this attitude, look- 
ing like birds with spread wings carved out of black stone. The 
cormorant watches the water at times from a rock, and dives after 
its prey ; but it more often swims, when fishing, with head and neck 
submerged. When taking wing it rises heavily and with great 
labour, but when once fairly launched the flight is powerful. Cor- 
morants are gregarious and social birds at all seasons, and, like 
gulls and herons, they breed hi communities. Very early in spring, 
or shortly after the winter solstice, the bird's nuptial ornaments a 
crest on the head and a white patch on the thigh begin to appear ; 
both crest and white mark disappear at the end of the breeding 
season. The same nesting-place is resorted to year after year, as 
in the case of most species that breed in communities. The summit 
of a crag not easily accessible, or a ledge of rock on a cliff fronting 
the sea, or a rocky island, are favourite sites. Here the birds, some- 
times in hundreds, live together hi the greatest harmony, building 
their nests close together, in some cases almost touching. The nest 
is pyramidal in form, built up from the rock to a height of from six 
or seven inches to a couple of feet, and is composed of sticks, coarse 
grass, and seaweed. Three to five eggs are laid, very small for the 
bird's size, narrow and long in shape, of a pale greenish blue colour, 
overlaid with a thick coat of a chalky substance. This substance 
is quite soft when the egg is first laid ; it is then white, but soon 
hardens, and becomes stained, in the always wet and filthy nest, to 



220 BRITISH BIEDS 

a dirty yellowish colour. The young birds are hatched blind, and 
have a naked, bluish black skin, but they soon grow a thick, sooty 
black down. They are at all stages strange and repulsive-looking 
creatures, and when handled or approached by a person they become 
sick with fear or anger, and roll and sprawl about on their nests, 
screaming harshly, and vomiting their half-digested food. 

The young are fed with fish that has already been partially di- 
gested in the maw of the parent. It is not disgorged ; the young bird 
thrusts his head and neck deep down into his parent's gullet, and 
feeds as a horse does from his nose-bag. 

The young are said not to assume the adult or breeding plumage 
until the third year. 

Shag, or Green Cormorant. 
Phalacrocorax graculus. 

Bill black ; base of the under mandible yellow, the black 
skin about the gape thickly studded with small yellow spots ; iris 
emerald-green ; crown, neck, upper and under parts dark green 
with purple and bronze reflections ; wing and tail-feathers, legs and 
feet, black ; a crest, curling forwards, grows on the forehead in early 
spring, and is lost by the end of May. Length, twenty-seven 
inches. 

The shag may be easily mistaken for the cormorant, which it 
closely resembles, but when near at hand is seen to differ in its 
smaller size and its prevailing green colour, which appears black at 
a distance ; and, in the breeding season, by the absence of the white 
patch on the flank. In its habits it is more strictly marine than 
the cormorant, but resembles that bird in its manner of swimming 
and flight. It prefers bays and inlets to the open sea, and deep 
water near rocks to the shallow sea, where there is a low beach. 
In diving after fish it springs upwards almost out of the water, and 
goes down head first. Beneath the water it propels itself wholly by its 
feet ; the auks, and some other diving birds, use their wings as fins 
to assist progression. After capturing a fish the shag brings it to 
the surface to swallow it, then swims on for a space, and dives again, 
and so on, and finally returns to the rock, where it proceeds to dis- 
gorge its prey, to devour it at leisure. The shag breeds on sea- 
cliffs, sometimes building on the ledges or in crevices, but caves, 




GANNETS. GUILLEMOTS. HEKRINO-GOLJ>. 



SHAG, OR GREEN CORMORANT 221 

where they exist, are preferred. The eggs are three in number, in 
shape and colour like those of the cormorant, and the nests, which 
are placed close together, are also like those of that bird. 

The shag is found in certain localities all round the coasts of 
Great Britain and Ireland, but is less numerous and more local than 
the cormorant. 

Gannet. 
Sula bassana. 

Adult : head and neck buff- colour ; all the rest of the plumage 
white, except the primaries, which are black. Young of the first 
year : upper parts blackish brown flecked with white ; under parts 
mottled with dusky ash and buff. The dark markings diminish 
until the sixth year, when the adult colouring is assumed. Length, 
thirty-four inches. 

One of the most notable seafowls inhabiting the British coasU 
is the gannet, or solan goose, a species which forms a connecting- 
link between the cormorants and the pelicans. The origin of its two 
common names is not precisely known, although it seems probable 
that gannet is derived from gams, the ancient British name for goose. 
The young birds from the Bass Eock, which are largely used as food 
in the neighbouring counties, are called, I do not know why, * Par- 
liamentary geese.' The world will have it that the bird is a goose, 
although as little like a goose, except in size, as a guillemot is like a 
sheldrake. The scientific name, basscvna (of the Bass Kock), had its 
origin in the belief that the rock at the entrance to the Firth of 
Forth was the gannet's only breeding-place. There are several 
other colonies : one, now greatly diminished, on Lundy Island ; 
another, also small, on the coast of Pembrokeshire ; on the West 
Coast of Scotland there are four stations, and others exist on the 
Irish coast. None of these, however, can compare in importance 
with the Bass Kock, where it has been calculated that as many as 
ten thousand pairs congregate each year to breed. 

The gannet is an exclusively marine bird, and an inhabitant 
throughout the year of the seas round the British Islands. Its flight 
is easy and powerful, and its appearance on the wing more pelican- 
than cormorant-like. It feeds entirely on fish, and follows the 
shoals of such species as swim near the surface mackerel, herrings, 
pilchards, and sprats. When fishing it sails at a considerable 



222 BRITISH BIRDS 

height, and on catching sight of its prey rises to a greater height, 
and then, with wings nearly closed, drops straight down, with great 
force, into the water. Its appearance when falling has been likened 
by one observer to ' a brilliant piece of white marble.' 

The gannets begin to assemble at the breeding-rock in March. 
Their nesting habits are similar to those of the cormorant, but only 
one egg is laid, which is, like the cormorant's egg, pale blue in 
colour and thickly coated with a white, chalky material. Mr. 
Charles Dixon, in * Our Barer Birds,' thus describes a visit to the 
great gannet settlement on the east coast : ' By far the best locality 
for studying the nesting economy of the gannet is the Bass, that 
wide-famed mass of basaltic rocks standing like a sentinel in the 
Firth of Forth. . . . Upon reaching the Bass a few gannets may 
be seen sailing dreamily about, but you have no idea of the immense 
numbers until you have climbed the rugged hill. . . . But when 
the summit of the cliff is reached the scene that bursts upon our 
gaze is one that well-nigh baffles all description. Thousands upon 
thousands of gannets fill the air, just like heavy snowflakes, and on 
every side their loud, harsh cries of " carra-carra-carra " echo and re- 
echo among the rocks. The gannets take very little notice of our ap- 
proach, many birds allowing themselves to be actually pushed from 
their nests. Others utter harsh notes, and with flapping wings 
offer some show of resistance, only taking wing when absolutely 
compelled to do so, and disgorging one or two half -digested fish as 
they fall lightly over the cliffs into the air. On all sides facing the 
sea gannets may be seen. Some are standing on the short grass on 
the edge of the cliffs, fast asleep, with their heads buried under their 
dorsal plumage ; others are preening their feathers ; whilst many 
are quarrelling and fighting over standing-room on the rocks.' 

Describing another great breeding-place of the gannet on the 
island of Borreay, about four miles from St. Kilda, he says : ' The 
flat, sloping top of one of these stupendous ocean rocks, called by 
the natives " Stack-a-lie," looks white as the driven snow, so thickly 
do the gannets cluster there, and the sides are just as densely popu- 
lated wherever the cliff is rugged and broken. So vast is this colony 
of birds that it may be ' seen distinctly forty miles away, looking 
Uks seme huge vessel under full sail heading to windward.' 



HEBON 225 

Heron 
Ardea cinerea. 

Crest bluish black ; upper parts slate-grey ; forehead, cheeks, 
and neck white, the latter streaked with bluish grey and termi- 
nating in long white feathers; under parts greyish white; bill 
yellow. Length, thirty-six inches. 

The heron is sometimes spoken of as our largest wild bird. It is 
not meant that he is really larger than the golden eagle, or wild 
swan, or grey lag goose, but only that he is the biggest of the com- 
paratively common birds. The heron has two very different aspects 
when in repose, or standing, and when on the wing. On the 
ground, or, as we more often see him, standing knee-deep in the 
water, watching the surface, he presents a sorry appearance a 
bird lean and ungraceful in figure, white and ghostly grey in colour, 
awkward in his motions when he moves. No sooner does he 
open his wings than this mean aspect vanishes, and he is trans- 
figured. At first the flight appears heavy on account of the slow, 
measured beats of the broad, rounded vans ; but as he rises higher, 
and soars away to a distance, it strikes the beholder as wonderfully 
free and powerful. The appearance of the bird is then majestic, 
and its flight more beautiful than that of any other large wading 
bird with which I am acquainted ibis, wood-ibis, stork, flamingo, 
or spoonbill. When pursued by a falcon the heron is capable of 
rising vertically to a vast height, while the hawk rushes after in a 
zigzag course, striving to rise above his quarry so as to strike. 
This aerial contest of hawk and heron forms a very fascinating 
spectacle, and formerly, when falcons were trained for this sport, 
the heron was as much esteemed as the pheasant which has been 
called the * sacred bird ' is at the present day. With the decline 
of falconry the heron ceased to be protected by law, and diminished 
greatly in numbers ; but he is an historical bird, and there is a feel- 
ing, or sentiment, that has served to prevent his extermination. It 
is still considered a fine thing to have a heronry on a large estate ; 
and so long as this feeling endures the bird will receive sufficient 
protection, although the existing heronries, when we come to count 
them, are not many. 

The heron breeds in communities, and when the heronry is 



224 BRITISH BIRDS 

well-placed and safeguarded the birds return to it year after year. 
As a rule the nests are built on the tops of large trees in a sheltered 
part of the wood. The nest is a bulky, rudely built platform struc- 
ture of sticks and weeds, lined with rushes, wool, and other soft 
materials. Three or four eggs are laid, very pale dull green in 
colour. The young are fed in the nest five or six weeks before they 
fly. Two broods are reared in the season. 

The heronry is a most interesting place to visit when the young 
birds are nearly old enough to fly, and are most hungry and voci- 
ferous, and stand erect on the nests or neighbouring branches, look- 
ing very strange and tall and conspicuous on the tree-tops. The nests 
are of various sizes, and have a very disordered appearance, some 
of them looking like huge bundles of sticks and weed-stalks flung 
anyhow into the trees. At this period the parent birds are extremely 
active, and if the colony be a large one, they are seen arriving 
singly, or in twos and threes, at intervals of a few minutes through- 
out the day. Each time a great blue bird with well-filled gullet is 
seen sweeping downwards the young birds in all the nests are 
thrown into a great state of excitement, and greet the food- 
bearer with a storm of extraordinary sounds. The cries are power, 
ful and harsh, but vary greatly, and resemble grunts and squeals 
and prolonged screams, mingled with chatterings and strange 
quacking or barking notes. When the parent bird has settled on its 
own nest, and fed its young, the sounds die away ; but when several 
birds arrive in quick succession the vocal tempest rages continu- 
ously among the trees, for every young bird appears to regard any 
old bird on arrival as its own parent bringing food to satisfy its 
raging hunger. 

The cry of the adult is powerful and harsh, and not unlike the 
harsh alarm-cry of the peacock. 

Common Bittern. 

Botaurus stellaris. 

Crown and nape black ; general colour buff, irregularly barred 
above and streaked below with black ; feathers of the neck long, 
and forming a ruff; bill greenish yellow; legs and feet green. 
Length, thirty inches. 

The bittern, formerly a common bird, is hardly entitled to a 
place in this book, since it has long been extirpated as a breeding 




'-, 



PLATE IX. 



IUTTKKN. V NAT. SI/K. 



COMMON BITTERN 225 

species. It is, however, a noteworthy fact that, whereas other 
species that have been driven out, such as the great bustard, spoon- 
bill, avocet, black tern, and several more, appear now as only rare 
occasional visitors in our country, the bittern comes back to us 
annually, as if ever seeking to recover its lost footing in our island. 
And that he would recover it, and breed again hi suitable places as 
in former tunes, is not to be doubted, it only the human inhabitants 
would allow it ; but, unhappily, this bird, like the ruff, hoopoe, and 
kingfisher, when stuffed and in a glass case, is looked upon as an 
attractive ornament by persons of a low order of intelligence and 
vulgar tastes. 

The bittern is a bird of singular appearance. On the whig he 
resembles the heron, but it is a rare thing to see him abroad in the 
daytime. He is strictly nocturnal in habits, and passes the day- 
light hours concealed hi thick reed-beds in extensive marshes. His 
buff and yellow and chestnut colour, mottled and barred and 
pencilled with black and brown, gives him a strange tigriue or cat- 
like appearance ; it is a colouring well suited to his surroundings, 
where yellow and brown dead vegetation is mixed with the green, 
and the stems and loose leaves of the reeds throw numberless spots 
and bars of shade beneath. Secure hi its imitative colouring, the 
bittern remains motionless in its place until almost trodden upon. 
Its active life begins in the evening, when it leaves its hiding-place 
to prey on fishes, eels, frogs, voles, small birds, and insects, and 
every living thing it finds and is able to conquer with a blow of its 
sharp, powerful bill. 

When flying he utters a harsh, powerful scream, and he has, 
besides, a strange vocal performance, called ' booming ' a sound 
that resembles the bellowing of a bulL Formerly, when the bittern 
was a common bird in England, this extraordinary evening per- 
formance was the subject of some superstitious notions, and it was 
commonly believed that, to produce so great a volume of sound, the 
bird, when screaming, thrust its beak and head into the water. 
Thus, in Thomson's ' Seasons ' we read : 

The bittern knows his time, with bill submerged, 
To shake the sounding marsh. 

In March or April the nest is made on the ground, among the 
thick reeds, and is formed of weeds, sticks, and rushes. The eggs 
are four in number, of an olive-brown colour, sometimes with a 
greenish shade. 



226 BEITISH BIRDS 

Besides the two species described there are no fewer than eight 
herons in our list of British birds, most of these being very rare 
stragglers to our shores : 

Purple heron (Ardea purpurea) is a straggler from the continent 
of Europe ; it breeds in Holland. 

Great white heron (Ardea alba). Eight examples of this species, 
a straggler from South-eastern Europe, have been obtained in this 
country. 

Little egret (Ardea gazetta). A waif from Southern Europe ; 
it also inhabits Africa, Asia, and Australia. 

Buff-backed heron (Ardea bubulcus). Inhabits Southern Eu- 
rope ; three examples have been obtained. 

Squacco heron (Ardea rallo'ides). From Southern Europe ; 
occasionally seen on migration in England. 

Little bittern (Ardetta minuta). This bittern almost deserves 
to rank as a British species, as it is of somewhat frequent occur- 
rence, and has been known to breed in the Broads of Norfolk, and 
in other localities in Great Britain. It is a summer visitor to most 
countries in Europe. 

Night heron (Nycticotax griseus). This heron has a range 
almost as extensive as that of the barn-owl, and breeds hi many 
localities throughout the continent of Europe. The question as to 
whether or not it has ever bred in England has not been settled ; 
but it, is now an almost annual spring and autumn visitor to our 
country, and it is hardly to be doubted that it would breed with us 
if unmolested, or, in other words, allowed to live. 

American bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus). A few examples of 
this North American bittern have been obtained in this country. 

Two other families hi the present order (Herodiones) are repre- 
sented by occasional visitors in the list of British birds two storks 
(Ciconiidse), and a spoonbill, and an ibis (Platalaidae) : 

White stork (Ciconia alba). Common in Holland, and an occa- 
sional visitor to the east coast of England. 

Black stork (Ciconia nigra). A rare straggler from continental 
Europe. 

Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia). Now an occasional straggler to 
Great Britain ; formerly a regular breeder in heronries in several 
localities in England. 

Glossy ibis (Plegadis falcvnellus). A very rare straggler from 
Southern Europe. 



GREY LAG GOOSE 



227 



Grey Lag Goose. 
Anser cinereus. 







Hr 



FIG. 75. GBKY LAO GOOSE. 



natural size. 



Head, neck, and upper parts greyish brown ; lower breast and 
abdomen dull white with a few black spots ; bluish grey rump and 
wing-coverts ; bill flesh-coloured, with a white nail at the tip ; legs 
and feet flesh-coloured. Length, thirty-five inches. 

Eight species of geese are counted among British birds ; two of 
these the snow-goose (Chen albatus) and the red-breasted goose 
(Bernicla ruficollis) may be dismissed at once as rare stragglers 
to the British Islands. The other six are all winter visitors to 
our coasts, and are divisible into two natural groups the grey 
geese (counting four species), all large birds, brownish grey in colour, 
and feeders on land ; and the black, or dark-coloured geese (two 



228 BRITISH BIRDS 

species), very dark in colour, very much smaller in size, and feeders 
on the tidal flats. 

The grey lag is the largest species in the first group, and the 
only goose that breeds within the limits of the United Kingdom. 
It was formerly a common summer resident, and bred in the 
eastern counties of England; it is now confined as a breeding 
species to a few localities in Scotland and the Hebrides, arid in all 
these last refuges it is said to be rapidly diminishing. That it will 
diminish still further, until the vanishing-point is reached, hardly 
admits of a doubt. As a winter migrant from northern Europe it 
will long continue to visit our coasts, and as a domestic bird we 
shall have it always with us ; for the grey lag is supposed to be 
the species from which our familiar bird has descended. 

The grey lag goose pairs for life, and is gregarious, but is said 
not to associate with geese of other species. It feeds on grass 
and young shoots, and in the autumn on grain, and spends nearly 
the whole day in feeding, and resorts at dark to some open level 
space to roost, where it is almost impossible to approach within 
gunshot of the flock, owing to its watchfulness. The grey lag makes 
a large nest of reeds and grass, lined with moss, and lays six eggs, 
sometimes a larger number. During incubation the gander keeps 
guard over his mate, and afterwards assists her in rearing the 
young. These are led back to the nest every evening by the goose, 
and sleep under her wing. The male begins to moult a month 
earlier than the female, and when the time comes he leaves her 
in sole charge of the young, and withdraws to some hiding-place, 
or spends the daylight hours on the water, coming to the land in 
the evening to feed. The goose begins her moult after the young 
are able to take care of themselves. 

The grey lag goose does not range so far north as the allied 
species ; it is only in Norway, where the summer is longest, owing 
to the influence of the Gulf Stream, that it is found nesting north 
of the arctic circle. 

JBean-Goose. 
Anser segetum. 

The bean-goose differs from the preceding species in its more 
slender shape and longer bill, which is orange- colour in the middle, 
black at the base and on the nail ; and in its darker colour and the 
absence of black marks on the breast, and the bluish grey colour 



BEAN-GOOSE 229 

on the shoulder of the wing ; legs and feet orange-yellow. Length, 
thirty -four inches. 

This species is more arctic in its range than the grey lag, and 
has not been known to breed in this country, except in a domestic 
state. It visits Scotland, Ireland, and the north and east coasts of 
England, in winter. It is less in size than the grey lag, but its 
habits are similar : by day it feeds on the wolds and stubbles, and 
its love of grain has won for it the common name of bean-goose, as 
well as its scientific name, segetum. Its flight is somewhat 
laboured, with measured wing-beats, but powerful and rapid, and 
the birds travel in skeins, or in a phalanx formation. It breeds in 
extensive marshes and lakes, making its nest on the ground among 
the rushes on small islands. The nest is a slight hollow lined with 
dead grass and moss, and down from the parent bird: three or 
four eggs are laid, creamy white in colour, with a rough granular 
surface. Before the young are able to fly the moulting season 
begins, when the birds lose the power of flight, as is the case with 
all the geese ; and according to Seebohm's interesting account, even 
in the remote and desolate districts in Siberia, to which this bird 
resorts to breed, the moulting season is one of great danger to it. 
He says : ' The Samoyades in the valley of the Petchora gave us 
glowing accounts of the grand battues which they used to have at 
these times, surrounding the geese, killing them with sticks, and 
collecting sacks full of down and feathers.' 

Pink-footed Goose. 
Anser brachyrhynchus. 

Colour of plumage as in the bean-goose, but with the bluish 
grey on the shoulder of the wing as in the grey lag goose ; upper 
mandible pink in the centre ; base, edges, and nail black ; legs and 
feet pink. Length, twenty-eight inches. 

This goose very closely resembles the bean-goose in habits, 
colour, and general appearance ; the only difference of any importance 
between the two species consists in the smaller beak of the pink- 
foot, from which it takes its name of brachyrhynchus (short -billed), 
and in its legs being pink instead of yellow. It was first described 
as a distinct species about fifty years ago, but is still regarded by 
some authorities as only an ' island form ' of the bean -goose. The 



230 BRITISH BIRDS 

pink colour of the bill and feet is found not to be constant, 
Seebohm says, ' It looks very much as if the pink-footed geese had 
been long enough hi the arctic climate of Spitzbergen to change the 
colour of their feet, but not long enough to make the new colour 
permanent, and that when bred in the warmer climate of this 
country they had a tendency to hark back to their ancestors. 1 

White-fronted Goose. 

Anser albifrons. 

White on the forehead and at the base of the lower mandible ; 
upper parts brownish ash ; breast and belly brownish white broadly 
barred with black ; bill orange-yellow, with a white nail at the tip ; 
legs and feet orange. Length, twenty-seven inches. 

The white-fronted goose is the fourth and last on our list of grey 
geese four forms of one species, as some hold and, like the others, 
it comes to us from the north in whiter, but is more common in 
Ireland than hi Great Britain. It is like the bean-goose in size, but 
differs from it hi its white front, and from the grey lag goose in 
having the under parts more speckled with black feathers. Its 
voice is most like that of the grey lag, but is more trumpet-like in 
sound, and the rapidly repeated notes give its cry a laughter-like 
character ; laughing goose is one of its common names. It breeds 
farther north than the bean-goose, and its nest is described as a 
hollow hi the ground lined with dead grass. It lays five to seven 
creamy white eggs. 

Brent Goose. 

Bernicla brenta. 

Bill, head, throat, and neck black, except a small white patch 
on each side of the latter ; mantle brownish black with rufous- 
brown edges ; wing-feathers, rump, and tail black ; coverts white ; 
upper breast black ; lower breast and belly slate-grey ; legs black. 
Length, twenty-three inches. 

The brent goose arrives in our islands hi the autumn, and 
remains through the whiter in suitable localities hi various parts of 
the coast, from the Orkneys and Shetlands in the north to the 



BEENT GOOSE 231 

Channel Islands ; it is, however, most abundant on the north-east 
coast of England. In most years old and young birds arrive to^ 




1 HI 






PIG. 76 BRENT GOOSE. ^ natural size. 

gether in flocks ; in other years only adults appear, and it is supposed 
that in such seasons exceptionally cold weather has prevented the 
eggs from hatching. The brent differs from its nearest ally, the 
barnacle goose, in its slightly smaller size, darker plumage, which 
is nearly black, and its more marine habits. With us it spends 
most of the time out at sea, visiting the tidal flats early and late in 
the day, and at night, to feed on the wrack grass (Zoster a marina). 
Mr. Abel Chapman has graphically described this goose in his ' Bird 
Life on the Border.' It is, he says, the last of our winter visitors to 
arrive, seldom coming in force until the new year. Their affections 
are so hyperborean that they will come no farther south than they 
are actually compelled by food requirements, being driven reluctantly 
southwards, point by point, before the advancing line of the winter's 
ice. He writes : ' On alighting at the feeding-grounds the geese at 
once commence greedily to pull up and devour the blades of the 
sea-grass, the whole flock advancing in the closest order over the 
green oozy mud, all heads down except the sentries, of which an 



232 BRITISH BIRDS 

ample number are always discernible. . . . After finishing their 
morning meal, about noon, the geese are disposed to rest, and spend 
the middle of the day floating about on the water, preening them- 
selves, and, in mild weather, splashing about, and chasing each 
other in sheer exuberance of spirit. . . . Towards evening the geese 
recommence feeding, and so intensely eager are they about sunset 
to utilise the few remaining minutes that they then, perhaps, offer 
the most favourable chance to get within shot. . . . Just at dark 
the whole host rise on wing together, and make for the open sea. 
In the morning they come in by companies and battalions, but at 
night they go out in a solid army ; and a fine sight it is to witness 
their departure. The whole host, perhaps ten thousand strong, 
here massed in dense phalanxes, elsewhere in columns, tailing off 
into long skeins, V's, or rectilinear formations of every conceivable 
shape, but always with a certain formation out they go ; ... while 
their loud clanging Tiorik honk, and its running accompaniment of 
lower croaks and shrill bi-tones, resound for miles around.' 



Barnacle Goose. 
Bernicla leucopsis. 







FIG. 77. BABNAOLB GOOSK. -TO natural size. 



BARNACLE GOOSE 233 

Head, neck, and throat black ; forehead, cheeks, and chin white ; 
a black stripe between the eye and bill ; mantle lavender-grey 
barred with bluish black and white ; wing and tail feathers blackish ; 
breast and belly greyish ; vent and tail-coverts pure white ; flanks 
barred with grey ; bill, legs, and feet black. Length, twenty-five 
inches. 

The present species is not nearly so abundant as the brent, and 
not so exclusively marine in its habits. It sometimes visits inland 
districts, and although it feeds on the mud-flats like the brent, it 
leaves them as soon as the tide rises, and repairs to some grassy 
bank of a river or lake, where it feeds. The breeding habits of this 
species are not known ; it is believed to have its nesting-grounds in 
Spitzbergen and Nova Zembla. 



Mute Swan. 
Cygnus olor. 

Bill reddish orange ; the nail, nostrils, lores, and basal tubercle 
black ; plumage pure white ; legs and feet black. Length, sixty 
inches ; weight, about thirty pounds. 

The mute, or tame swan, is as well known to most people as the 
turkey, goose, and pheasant, and, like the pheasant, is supposed to 
be a foreign species, said to have been first brought from Cyprus to 
this country, by Bichard I., about the end of the twelfth century. 
As a semi-domestic species it exists throughout the British Islands, 
but whether wild birds of its species visit us or not is not known, 
since wild and semi- wild birds are indistinguishable. The wild mute 
swan breeds in Denmark and South Sweden, in South Kussia and 
the valley of the Danube, and many other localities, and in whiter 
visits the Mediterranean. The breeding habits of the wild and tame 
bird are the same, but, according to Naumann, the wild bird in the 
pairing season has a loud, trumpet-like note, resembling the cry of 
a crane or whooper swan. 

The cygnet is sooty grey in colour, but in the so-called ' Polish 
swan ' (Cygnua immutabilis) of Yarrell, which is now regarded by 
most ornithologists as a variety of the mute swan the cygnets are 
white. 



234 BRITISH BIRDS 

Whooper Swan. 
Cygnus musicus. 

Beak : anterior part depressed and black, basal part quadrangular 
and lemon-colour ; plumage white ; legs and feet black. Length, 
sixty inches ; weight, about twenty-four pounds. 

The whooper, also called the wild swan and the whistling swan, 
is a not uncommon visitor to our coasts in winter, and a little over 
a century ago had a breeding-station in the Orkneys. It is very 
closely related to the mute swan, but it ranges very much farther 
north in summer, its breeding-grounds being north of the arctic 
circle. The nest is bulky, composed of sedge and coarse herbage, 
and the eggs are four or five in number, and white. Seebohm, who 
observed its habits in its breeding-grounds, says : ' The whooper is 
a ten times handsomer bird than a tame swan in the eyes of an 
ornithologist, but is not really so graceful its neck is shorter, and 
its scapulars are not so plume -like. Instead of sailing about with its 
long neck curved in the shape of the letter S, bent back almost to 
the fluffed-up scapulars, the whooper seemed intent on feeding with 
his head and neck under water.' He compares the notes of the 
whooper to a bass trombone ; but the notes are short three or four 
trumpet-blasts, keeping time with the upward and downward beat 
of the wings. He adds : ' The extermination of the whooper in so 
many of its breeding-places has arisen from the unfortunate habit, 
which it evidently acquired years ago, before men came upon the 
scene a habit which it shares with the goose. Most birds moult 
their quills slowly, in pairs, so that they are only slightly inconve- 
nienced by the operation, and never without quills enough to enable 
them to fly. Swans and geese, on the other hand, drop nearly all 
their flight-feathers at once, and for a week or two, before the new 
feathers have grown, are quite unable to fly. In some localities 
the whoopers have had the misfortune to breed where the natives 
have been clever enough to surround them at the critical period of 
their lives, and stupid enough to avail themselves of the opportunity 
thus afforded of killing the geese that laid the golden eggs.' 

Bewick's swan (Cygnus Bewickii), named by Yarrell after 
Thomas Bewick, author of a well-known ' History of British Birds,' 



WHOOPEE SWAN 



235 



is of frequent occurrence in the British Islands in severe winters, 
but is not a regular visitant. It is a third smaller than the whooper, 
which it resembles in figure and habits. 



Common Sheldrake. 
Tadorna cornuta. 




FIG. 78. SHELDKAKE. ^ natural size. 

Beak and basal knob bright red ; head and upper neck dark 
glossy green, followed by a white collar, below which is a chestnut 
band ; wing-coverts white ; speculum green ; scapulars, part of the 
secondaries, and the primaries black ; rump, upper tail-coverts, and 
tail-feathers white, the latter tipped with black ; lower, central line 
of the breast and belly dark brown, the rest of the under parts 
white ; legs and feet pink. Length, twenty-six inches. The female 
is without the knob at the base of the bill, and her colours are not 
so bright. 

The sheldrakes, or sheld-ducks, are curious and interesting birds, 
and form a connecting-link between the geese and ducks ; but they 
arc more like the former than the latter, and sheld-gander, or sheld- 



236 BRITISH BIRDS 

goose, would perhaps be a more suitable name. The common 
sheldrake is, perhaps, the most duck-like in appearance of all the 
birds of this genus, and the common name, sheld, which means 
parti- coloured, really applies to this species only. As hi the geese, 
the male and female sheld-ducks are nearly alike in plumage, and 
the male does not change colour ; and, like the gander, he assists 
his mate in rearing the young. In the true ducks the drake changes 
his plumage in summer, becoming like the female in colour, and in 
most cases (for there are exceptions) he remains apart from the duck 
from the time that incubation begins until the young are fully grown. 
Of the seven known species of sheldrake, only one is indigenous 
to the British Islands. A second species, the ruddy sheldrake 
(Tadoma casarca), is a rare visitor, or straggler, to our coasts, and 
it is probable that most of the sheldrakes of this species that are 
shot from time to time in England are escaped birds. 

The common sheldrake is a bird that, once seen, cannot be easily 
forgotten, its strange guinea-pig arrangement of three colours black 
white, and red making it one of the most strikingly conspicuous 
fowls in this country. On account of its handsome and singular 
colouring it is much persecuted, and as a breeding species is becom- 
ing increasingly rare with us. It inhabits sandy sea- coasts, and is 
only seen as a rare straggler on inland waters. It feeds close to the 
shore where the sea is shallow, and is partial to coasts where wide 
stretches of sand, mixed with rocks, are uncovered at low water. It 
feeds, both in the water and on the flats, on marine insects and 
molluscs, and breeds in the sandhills along the coast. The nesting- 
hole is in most cases a deserted rabbit-burrow, but it also burrows 
for itself, and is known as the ' burrow-duck ' on many parts of the 
coast. The hole is six to twelve feet in length, ending in a chamber 
lined with dry grass and moss. Seven to twelve creamy white 
eggs are laid, sometimes a larger number. The eggs are enveloped 
in a quantity of down, which the bird plucks from her own body. It 
is said that the male takes no part in incubation, but remains near 
the burrow on guard, and gives timely warning of danger, and 
when the young are hatched and taken to the sea, assists in rearing 
and protecting them. 

The sheldrake has a harsh cry, but in the breeding season the 
drake utters a soft, tremulous, whistling note. 



WIGEOX '237 



Wigeon. 
Mareca penelope. 







FIG. 79. WIGEON. \ natural size. 

Bill dull blue ; forehead and crown cream- white ; chin, neck, 
and throat chestnut ; the cheeks and hind neck minutely spotted 
with deep green ; breast white ; under parts grey, the flanks pencilled 
with dark grey ; mantle vermiculated grey ; shoulder white, with 
a terminal bar of black, followed by a green speculum tipped with 
black below ; wing- and tail-feathers dark brown ; legs and feet 
dark brown. Length, eighteen inches. Female: above, mottled 
greyish brown ; shoulder whitish ; speculum greyish green ; under 
parts mottled buffish white. The drake assumes female plumage 
in July. 

Next to the mallard, the wigeon is the most familiar freshwater 
duck in the British Islands. Its abundance, handsome plumage, 
peculiar voice, and interesting habits, to say nothing of its excellence 
as an article of food, contribute to make it well known. It is a 
visitor in winter in very large numbers to our coasts, and seeks 
its food both on the tidal flats and on inland waters throughout the 
country, but is always most abundant in the vicinity of the sea. 



238 BRITISH BIRDS 

In April and May it migrates to higher latitudes : in Scotland it is 
partly a resident species, and breeds in many localities ; and, in less 
numbers, it also remains to breed in Ireland. The wigeon differs 
a good deal from other ducks in its feeding habits : it feeds both 
by day and night, in the water and on land. On land it is, like 
the goose, a grass-eater, and in Lapland is known from this habit 
as the * grass-duck.' In disposition it is one of the shyest and 
wariest, and at the same time the most gregarious, among the 
waterfowl, and often unites in immense flocks. It is also very 
loquacious : its loud, prolonged whistle in two syllables, strongly 
accented on the first, is described by Seebohm as being ' very wild 
and weird, as it startles the ear on the margin of a mountain tarn 
or moorland lake a solitary cry, very high in key, not unmusical 
in tone, but loud and piercing.' It is called * whew duck ' in some 
localities, from its whistling cry. 

The nest is placed amidst coarse grass or heather, and is deeply 
lined with down. The eggs are seven to ten in number, and cream- 
coloured. 

A few specimens of the American wigeon (Mareca aanericwna) 
have been obtained in various parts of Great Britain. 

Pintail. 
Dafila acuta. 

Head and neck bronze-brown, black on the nape ; a white 
stripe down the neck on each side, extending to the white breast 
and under parts; back and flanks mottled grey; greater wing- 
coverts buff; speculum green margined with black and white; 
tail black, the two middle feathers greatly prolonged ; under tail- 
coverts black; bill, legs, and feet slaty grey. Length, twenty- 
eight inches. Female : mottled brown above and greyish white 
below; speculum green. In July the male assumes the female 
dress, and retains it until October. 

The pintail, although not so handsomely coloured as the shoveler, 
mallard, wigeon, and teal, is the most elegant of the freshwater 
ducks, being slim and graceful in form, with the two slender middle 
feathers of the tail greatly elongated. Sea-pheasant is one of its 
local names, but the same name is sometimes given to the long- 



PINTAIL 239 

tailed duck (Hcurelda glacialis) on the north-east coast. The pin- 
tail is a winter visitor only to the British Islands, appearing in 
October, and is most common on the south coast. It is found in 
small flocks, and prefers shallow waters with muddy bottoms, and 
feeds on aquatic weeds, insects, and crustaceans. It is always most 
abundant near the shore, but is also met with on inland waters. 





FIG. 80. PINTAIL. jL natural size. 

It has a rapid flight, and is a comparatively silent bird by day ; its 
cry by night is a low quack, and in spring, during courtship, the 
drake utters soft and inward notes, which he accompanies with 
some curious gestures and antics. The pintail breeds freely in a 
semi-domestic state, and lays seven to ten eggs, pale bumsh green 
in colour. 

Mallard, or Wild Duck. 
Anas boscas. 

Bill yellowish ; head and neck glossy green, followed by a white 
ring ; hind neck and breast deep chestnut ; across the secondaries 
a greenish purple speculum, bordered above and below with white : 



240 BEITISH BIRDS 

rump, upper tail-coverts, and the four middle curled tail-feathers 
black ; the rest of the tail-feathers grey ; flanks and belly greyish 
white ; under tail-coverts velvet-black ; legs and feet orange-red. 
Length, two feet. Female: smaller; bill greenish; crown dark 
brown; general plumage mottled brown and buff; speculum 
green. 

The mallard is the most common and best-known freshwater 
duck in Britain, and is a resident species, breeding hi suitable 
localities throughout the country; but the birds that breed and 
remain all the year are few in number compared to the migrants 
that come to us in winter from more northern regions. In the 
domestic state the mallard is, next to the fowl, the most abundant 
and familiar bird we possess. The tame duck differs from the mal- 
lard only in its heavier body and shorter wings, and in being poly- 
gamous instead of monogamous in its habits. The tendency to vary 
hi colour is a result of domestication in all species. It was from 
observing the annual change hi the plumage of the domestic drake 
that the discovery was made that ducks differ from other birds in 
the manner of their moult. The period of the moult does not coin- 
cide hi the drake and duck ; and this discrepancy in the sexes has 
caused ducks to differ in their breeding habits from all other birds. 
Thus, in most birds, male and female share the labours of incuba- 
tion, and of rearing and protecting the young ; and the moult, which 
is always a period of danger, during which the bird is obliged 
to go into hiding, takes place some time after the young are able 
to shift for themselves in other words, the family tie is broken 
after it has ceased to be necessary ; and the female of the mallard, 
and of other ducks, moult in this way. Not so the male. He is 
smitten by the change after the eggs are all laid and incubation begun ; 
with the result that the marriage tie is dissolved just at the period 
when his help is most needed. This is one of the strangest things 
hi bird history ; for up to the time when the physical change begins 
the drake is not less loving and solicitous than any other male bird, 
and if by chance the moulting period is delayed, he continues to 
guard the nest and share the labours of incubation ; BO that we may 
say, without straining a metaphor, that the drake is forcibly torn 
away from his marital duties, just as the late-breeding swift or 
swallow is sometimes forced by an overpowering migratory instinct 
to abandon its helpless young in the nest. The action of the swift 
in leaving its helpless young to perish of starvation in the nest is 



i 



.1 




M 





MALLARD, OR WILD DUCK 241 

painful to contemplate, since we are accustomed to look en the 
parental affection as the most powerful of all ; and in this case there 
is a conflict between this emotion and another the desire for 
another climate ; and the last conquers, and the young are forsaken. 
In the drake it is not a case of a conflict between two emotions or 
two instincts, but of a physical change, which kills or makes nuga- 
tory the instinct and emotion ; for it is certain that the moulting 
period in all species that, like the duck, change their whole plumage 
in a short tune, is not only a period of danger, but of suffering. 
When the change comes the bird acts like the * stricken deer,' and 
like animals afflicted with some fatal disease : he goes apart, and 
remains in hiding until his new plumage has grown, and with 
renewed health his social instincts are restored. It is only in the 
case of the male duck that this change from health and strength to 
sickness and impotence falls in the midst of the breeding season. 

Another extraordinary fact about the moulting of the drake is 
that, in moulting, he puts on the dress of the female. The moult is 
complete, but only after the whole of the small feathers have been 
changed are the wing- and tail-feathers shed, and as these are all 
shed at once, the bird is for some time incapable of flight. But 
while in this incapable condition he is no longer a drake in appear- 
ance a bird of rich and conspicuous colouring but has a dull 
mottled brown like the duck. This annual ' eclipse,' as Waterton 
called it, lasts for three or four months ; and then there is a second, 
autumnal moult, of the body-feathers only, in which the rich colours 
of the male sex are recovered. 

The duck, in the meantime, moults only once in the year. 

A slight difference has been noted between the resident mallard 
that breeds in the British Islands and the mallard from the north 
that visits us in winter, the native bird being heavier. 

Gadwell. 

Chaulelasmus streperus. 

Beak lead-colour ; head and upper neck light brown with darker 
mottlings ; back marked with crescents of light grey on a dark 
ground ; median wing-coverts chestnut ; greater coverts blackish ; 
primaries brown ; secondaries brown and black, the outer webs 
forming a white speculum ; rump and upper tail-coverts bluish 
black ; tail-feathers dark brown with pale edges ; lower neck dark 



242 



BRITISH BIRDS 



grey, each feather with a pale grey margin ; breast and belly white ; 
flanks and vent grey; under tail-coverts bluish black; legs and 
feet orange. Length, twenty-one inches. Female: head and 
upper neck light brown mottled with dark ; lower hind neck and 
upper parts brown ; speculum and under parts white. 




FIG. 81. GADWBLL. ^ natural size. 



The gadwell most nearly resembles the mallard, but is not so 
richly coloured, and is smaller in size. It is a widely distributed 
species, ranging over a greater portion of the northern hemisphere. 
In the British Islands it is a winter visitor in small numbers, 
very few pairs remaining to breed, except in one locality in Norfolk, 
where it has been strictly protected for the last forty years, with the 
result that it breeds regularly, and is abundant. Elsewhere it is 
the rarest of the British freshwater ducks. The wings are long 
and sharply pointed, and the flight exceedingly rapid. When flying 
it frequently utters its cry, which resembles that of the mallard, 
but is shriller in tone. Like the mallard, it is a night feeder ; during 
the daylight hours it usually remains concealed in the closest cover. 
Its nest, lined with dry grass and a quantity of down, is placed on 
the ground at some distance from the waterside. Eight to twelve 
bufnsh white eggs are laid. 



OAEGANEJ 



243 



Garganey. 
Querquedula circia. 




FIG. 82. GARGANEY. ^ natural size. 



Bin black ; fore 
head, crown, nape, 
and back dark 
brown; from the eye 
a white stripe ex- 
tending to the back 
of the neck ; cheeks 
and neck light 
brown with short 
hair-like lines of 
white ; scapulars 
Hack, with centra) 
white stripe ; wing- 
coverts bluish grey ; 
speculum green be- 



tween two bars of white ; primaries and tail dull brown ; chin black i 
breast pale brown with dark crescentic bands ; belly white ; flanks 
with transverse black lines ; under tail- coverts black and white ; 
legs and feet greyish brown. Length, sixteen inches. Female : 
mottled brown ; stripe over the eye yellowish white ; speculum 
dull metallic green between two white bars. 

The garganey, or summer teal, or cricket teal, as it is sometimes 
called, on account of the low, jarring note of the male in the pairing 
season, differs considerably from its nearest relation, the common 
teal, both in its larger size and its colouring, which a little 
resembles that of the shoveler. It is an early spring visitor to the 
British Islands, rare in England, and still rarer in Scotland and 
Ireland. It remains to breed in suitable localities in this country, 
and is perhaps most common in the district of the Broads in 
Norfolk. It flies swiftly, and utters on the wing a sharp, quacking 
cry, sometimes repeated twice. Its feeding habits are similar to 
those of the teal, but it is not esteemed a good bird for the table- 
The nest is made among the coarse grass and herbage in swampy 
ground ; eight or nine creamy white eggs are laid sometimes a 
larger number. 

s 



244 BRITISH BIRDS 

Teal. 
Querquedula crecca. 

Bill blackish ; crown, cheeks, neck, and throat chestnut ; round 
and behind the eye an elongated patch of glossy green margined 
with buff ; upper parts and flanks delicately marked with black and 
white ; speculum black, green, and purple, tipped with yellowish 
white ; rump and tail-coverts black ; tail-feathers brown ; front 
of neck spotted with black on a buff ground ; breast and belly 
white ; legs and feet brownish grey. Length, fourteen inches and 
a half. Female : mottled brown ; little or no purple on the specu- 
lum. The female dress is assumed by the drake in July, and is kept 
until October. 

The handsome and natty little teal is the smallest of our ducka, 
its weight being only one third that of the mallard. In appearance 
it is a small wigeon, but whereas the wigeon is the wildest of our 
wild ducks in disposition, the teal is the tamest. It is chiefly a 
winter visitor to this country, and ^from September until spring is 
found throughout the British Islands. A considerable number of 
pairs remain to breed in suitable localities throughout England, and 
more numerously in Scotland and Ireland. The nest is placed on 
the ground on the borders of a marsh or bog, and sometimes at a 
distance from water, among heather or herbage ; it is made of dry 
grass and leaves, and, later on, down from the bird is added. The 
eggs are creamy- white or pale buff in colour, with a tinge of green, 
and eight or ten in number, sometimes as many as fifteen. The 
teal feeds chiefly by night, on aquatic plants, insects, slugs, and small 
crustaceans. Its call-note is a short, sharp quack, and in the pairing- 
time the drake emits a low, jarring note. The drake does not moult 
so early as most ducks, and remains longer with the female during 
the breeding season, leaving her only when the young are partly 
grown. 

Two American species of teal the blue-winged teal (Querque- 
dula discors) and the green-winged teal (Q. carolinensis) have 
been obtained in Great Britain, one specimen of each. 



SHOVE LEU 245 

Shoveler. 
Spatula clypeata. 

Bill lead-colour, very broad at the tip; head and upper neck 
green ; lower neck and scapulars white ; middle of the back dark 
brown ; shoulders pale blue ; greater wing-coverts white ; second- 
aries dark brown with a green speculum ; primaries, rump, upper 
and under tail-coverts, and tail-feathers, blackish ; breast and belly 
rich chestnut ; flanks freckled with dark brown on a paler ground ; 
vent white ; legs and feet reddish orange. Length, twenty inches- 
Female : brown with dark and light mottlings. In summer, the 
male in moulting assumes the colours of the female. 

The shoveler is the handsomest of the British freshwater ducks, 
and the most singular in appearance, on account of the great breadth 
of its spoon-like bill. Its plumage also, although beautiful, strikes 
one as somewhat singular ; for it is rare to find pale and delicate 
hues, like those on the wings and upper parts of this duck, together 
with a deep, rich colouring, as on the head, upper neck, and 
under parts. The pale blue and pure white contrast beautifully 
with the deep green and chestnut-brown. Another most interesting 
point hi the shoveler's history is its distribution. There is but one 
shoveler duck in the northern hemisphere, over which it has an 
immense range, including Europe, North Africa, Asia, and North 
America from Alaska to Panama. But in the southern hemi- 
sphere there are four other species, occupying respectively the four 
following widely separated regions South America, South Africa, 
Australia, and New Zealand. 

The shoveler is a whiter visitor to the British Islands ; it also 
breeds sparingly in some localities in the Midlands, in East Anglia, 
and the northern counties ; also in the Hebrides, and in one or two 
spots in Ireland. It is a very early breeder, placing its nest, lined 
with dry grass and down, on the ground, usually near the water, and 
it lays eight to fourteen eggs, pale greenish buff in colour. 

In the breeding season it utters a low quack, but at other timea 
is a silent bird. 



246 



BEITISH BIRDS 



Tufted, Duck. 

Fuligula cristata. 



Black, the head 
and neck with purp- 
lish gloss ; speculum, 
flanks, and belly 
white; bill pale blue; 
irides brilliant yel- 
low ; legs and feet 
dark blue. Length, 
seventeen inches. 
Female : dark 

brown ; under parts 
brownish grey. 

Male changes colour 
in May. 
FIG. 83. TUFTED DUCK. ^ natural size. 

Of sea or diving 

ducks (including the mergansers) no fewer than twenty species, 
referable to nine genera, have been described as ' British.' Of this 
number nine species are irregular visitants or stragglers, and may 
be dismissed with a mention of their names : Bed-crested pochard 
(Fuligula rufina), white-eyed duck (Nyroca ferruginea), Barrow's 
goldeneye (Clangula islandica), buffel-headed duck (C. albeola), 
harlequin duck (Cosmonettahistrionica), Steller's duck (Heniconetta 
Stelleri) ; king eider (Somateria spectabilis) ; surf -scoter (CE demia 
perspicillata), and hooded merganser (Mergus cucullatus). 

Of the eleven species, referable to six genera, that breed in, or 
regularly visit, these islands, and may properly be described as 
British birds, three are mergansers, the least duck -like of the ducks 
in their curiously modified beaks and grebe-like habits. Of the 
other eight species, four only are, strictly speaking, sea-ducks, being 
(on our coasts) exclusively marine in their habits. These are the 
eider, the long-tailed duck, the common scoter, and the velvet 
scoter. The tufted duck, pochard, and goldeneye, are marine and 
freshwater ducks. The scaup is more of a sea-duck than these 
three, and may be said to be intermediate in its habits between the 
two groups. 



TUFTED DUCK 247 

These eight diving ducks are all interesting, and some of them 
very handsome birds in their richly coloured and conspicuous 
plumage. They have stout, heavy-looking figures, and are clumsy 
walkers on land ; but in the water they are as much at home as 
grebes and guillemots, and are also strong on the wing. But they 
are not so familiar to us as the mallard, wigeon, and teal, as com- 
paratively few persons have the opportunity of observing them. 
Mr. Abel Chapman, in his valuable work, ' Bird Life on the Border,' 
says that these ducks are only well known to those 'who are 
enthusiastic enough to follow the regular sport of wildfowling 
afloat, and who alone enjoy the opportunity of becoming ac- 
quainted with these wild creatures in their bleak and desolate 
haunts.' 

The tufted duck is a whiter visitor to our coasts, also a resident 
throughout the year, and a regular breeder in various localities in 
England, Scotland, and Ireland. In winter it is both a sea- and 
fresh-water duck ; in the breeding season it is exclusively an 
inhabitant of inland waters, with a preference for small ponds with 
weedy bottoms. It pairs in March, and male and female there- 
after keep company until incubation begins, when the marriage tie 
is dissolved, as is the case with most ducks. It feeds chiefly by 
night, and is inactive by day, floating lazily on the water, dozing, 
or preening its feathers. At sunset it leaves the pool where it has 
passed the day, to seek its feeding-grounds. Its food consists of 
weeds growing at the bottom, for which it dives, and, tearing them 
up, brings them to the surface, to be eaten at leisure. 

The nest is placed among the rushes at the waterside, or in the 
centre of a tuft of aquatic grass, and is composed of dry sedges and 
grass, to which down is added as incubation progresses. Eight or 
ten eggs are laid, sometimes more, greenish buff in colour. 

When rising from the water it utters a grating cry. In winter 
it is gregarious, and is often seen associating with the scaup, 
pochard, and goldeneye. 

Scaup. 

Fuligula marila. 

Head, neck, upper breast, and back glossy black; mantle 
finely vermiculated with greyish brown and white ; speculum 
white, terminated with greenish black; rump, wing- and tail- 



248 BRITISH BIRDS 

feathers brown ; belly white ; bill pale blue ; irides straw-yellow ; 
legs and feet dull blue. Length, eighteen inches. Female: brown; 
a broad white band round the base of the bill ; upper breast and 
mantle vermioulated with grey ; belly dull white. 

The scaup is common with us in winter, and found on most 
parts of the coast, but never remains to breed. It does not come 
inland, like the tufted duck and goldeneye, but is met with in 
estuaries and the mouths of tidal rivers. In its breeding-haunts 
in the extreme north of Europe it penetrates to lakes and rivers 
at a considerable distance from the sea. It feeds on shellfish, 
crustaceans, aquatic insects, also on vegetable food, which it obtains 
by diving. It is gregarious at all times, and in the breeding season 
is seen in small flocks, feeding or floating idly on the water. 
It rises heavily, and flies rapidly, with violently-beating wings. 
Seebohm, who observed it in its summer haunts, says of its lan- 
guage : * Of all the cries of ducks that have come under my notice, 
I think that of the scaup is the most discordant. None of them 
are very musical, perhaps ; but if you imagine a man with an 
exceptionally harsh, hoarse voice, screaming out the word scaup at 
the top of his voice, some idea of the note of this duck may be 
formed.' 

The scaup makes its nest near the water, and lays from six to 
nine eggs, of a pale greenish grey colour. 

Pochard. 

Fuligula ferina. 

Head and neck chestnut-red ; breast and upper back black ; 
mantle finely freckled with black and white ; speculum incon- 
spicuous and grey ; under parts greyish white ; tail-coverts black : 
bill black with a blue band across the middle ; irides red ; legs 
and feet bluish grey. Length, nineteen and a half inches. Female: 
dull brown ; chin white. 

The pochard is a common winter duck when it comes to us 
from northern Europe ; it is a resident throughout the year in small 
numbers, and breeds regularly in many localities in Great Britain and 
Ireland. As a breeding species it has, however, greatly diminished 
in numbers, owing to the extensive draining of marshes and meres 



POCHAED 249 

in recent times. The pochard is more a freshwater than a sea- 
duck, and comes nearest to the tufted duck in its habits, obtaining 
its food by diving, and tearing up the grass and weeds from the 
lake-bottom. It feeds chiefly on vegetable matter, and is considered 
a better bird for the table than any other diving duck. In its 
flight it resembles the tufted duck, and also has a harsh, quick cry, 
like that species, when alarmed. At other times it has a low, 
whistling call-note. The nest is a hollow among the herbage near 
the water, or in a tussock of sedge, and is lined with dry grass, and 
with down from the sitting-bird. Seven to ten or twelve eggs are 
laid, in colour like those of the scaup. 

Goldeneye. 

Clangula glaucion. 

Head and neck glossy green, the crown-feathers slightly elong- 
ated ; a white patch at the base of the bill ; back black ; lower 
neck, scapulars, speculum, and under parts white ; thighs dark 
brown ; bill bluish black ; irides golden-yellow ; legs and toes 
yellow, with blackish webs. Length, nineteen inches. Female: 
dark brown above, without the white face-spot ; below, white. The 
female colour is assumed by the male in summer. 

The goldeneye is a regular winter visitant to the British Islands, 
remaining from the middle of October to the middle of April. In 
language and flight it resembles the scaup and tufted duck, but its 
flight is more violent, the rapidly-beating wings producing a loud, 
whistling sound. It passes most of the time on the water, and 
dives for its food, which consists of small fishes, frogs, shellfish, 
and insects ; also seeds and tender shoots of water-plants. During 
the winter it inhabits the sea and inland waters indifferently ; but 
in its summer haunts it seeks an inland lake, marsh, or river, where 
it has the peculiar habit of nesting in the trunk of a hollow tree. 
The eggs are deposited on the rotten wood at the bottom of the 
cavity, and a thick bed of down from the sitting-bird is made. As 
many as nineteen eggs are sometimes laid, but a dozen or thirteen 
is the more usual number. They are smooth and glossy, and 
greyish green in colour. The natives in the summer home of the 
goldeneye place suitable nesting-boxes, with small entrance-holes, 
in the trees ; the ducks readily occupy the boxes, and return to 



250 BRITISH BIRDS 

them year after year, although always robbed of their eggs. When 
the young have hatched the parent bird takes them in her beak, 
and carries them one by one to the water. 

Long-tailed Duck. 
Harelda glacialis. 

Head and neck, white with brownish grey cheeks, and below, on 
each side of the neck, an oval patch of dark brown ; back, rump, and 
tail-feathers blackish ; long scapulars, inner secondaries, short out- 
side tail-feathers, belly, and flanks white ; breast, whig-coverts, and 
primaries brownish black ; bill, rose-colour in the middle, base and 
tip black ; irides yellow or red ; legs and feet pale lead-colour. 
Length, twenty- six inches. Female : brown ; stripe above the eye 
and lower parts white. 

The long-tailed duck has the most elegant figure of the sea and 
diving ducks, if we except the mergansers, and although not so 
richly coloured as some species, is a beautiful bird in its white and 
brown plumage, bright red irides, and rose-coloured bill. During 
its winter sojourn on our coasts it is exclusively marine in its habits. 
To the south and east coasts its visits are irregular ; on the west 
coast of Scotland and in the Hebrides it is common ; in Ireland it 
is restricted to the north coast. It is more 'arctic in its distribution 
than any other duck, and in summer is only to be met with north 
of the limit of forest growth. In its summer haunts it goes inland 
to breed, and Seebohm says : * Probably the explanation of its almost 
exclusive attachment to salt water in winter is to be found in the 
fact that it rarely winters in a climate where all the fresh water is 
not frozen up.' A charming account is given by the same author of 
the habits of the long-tailed duck in its summer home hi the Siberian 
tundra a vast level region of swamps and lakes, gay with bright- 
tinted moss and lichen, and brilliantly-coloured arctic flowers. The 
ducks were abundant and very tame, in strange contrast to their 
excessively shy and wary disposition on our coasts. The smaller 
lakes were inhabited by single pairs, the larger sheets of water by 
several pairs. Each pair appeared to be very jealous of any invasion 
of its breeding-grounds, and severe battles were frequent between 
the males. The call of the drake was very peculiar, and often heard, 
md was a loud, clear cry of three syllables, the middle one prolonged 



LONG-TAILED DUCK 



251 



and strongly accented. In its summer haunts it feeds on water-plants. 
The drake does not leave his mate after the eggs have all been laid, 
but assists in incubation and in protecting the young. The nest is 
a slight hollow in the ground with down for lining ; the eggs are 
pale huffish green in colour. 

Mr. Abel Chapman says that, like other sea-ducks, this species 
gets its food by diving, but is not a bottom-feeder like the eider and 
scaup, which cannot feed in water more than two or three fathoms 
deep. The long-tail feeds on small marine animals floating in the 
water, and is hence able to feed in deep as well as shallow seas 
at a distance from land. 

Eider Duck. 
Somateria mollisima. 




FIG. 84. EIDER DUCK. 



natural size. 



Bill greenish ; down its centre, halfway to the nostrils, is a wedge 
of feathers which are black, like those of the forehead and crown ; 
the latter bisected by a white line running to the pale green nape, 
and divided by another white line from a green patch on each side 
of the neck ; cheeks, back, and wing-coverts white ; long sickle- 
shaped secondaries yellowish white ; whig-feathers, rump, and tail 



252 BRITISH BIBD8 

nearly black, with a white patch on each side of the latter ; breast 
rosy buff; abdomen black; legs and feet dull green. Length, twenty- 
five inches. Female : rufous-brown barred with blackish. 

The male eider is a large and strikingly handsome duck in its 
conspicuous and strongly contrasted colours velvet-black and snowy 
white, variegated with buff and delicate pale sea-green. But it is 
exclusively a sea- duck, living most of the time away from land, and 
most people know it only by name, as the bird that yields the ex- 
ceedingly light and elastic down with which bed-quilts are stuffed. 
It inhabits the northern coasts of Great Britain, its most southern 
breeding- station being on the Fame Islands, off the coast of 
Northumberland. It is gregarious at all seasons, and is usually seen 
in small flocks on the sea. It sits lightly on the water, swims 
and dives well, and flies rapidly near the surface. It feeds much 
near the shore, but seldom comes to land, except in the breeding 
season. Its food is obtained at the bottom of the sea, and Mr. A. 
Chapman says of its feeding habits : * The eider resembles the scaup 
in many of its habits, and both ducks are intimately acquainted 
with the local geography of the sea-bottom : all its depth for miles, 
and the position of every submerged reef and shallow, are well 
known to them. But while the scaup contents himself with the 
smaller shellfish and Crustacea, the eider, with his strong hooked 
beak, can crush and devour dog-crabs nearly as broad as one's fist.' 
Charles Dixon thus describes its language and love-making : ' It is 
a remarkably silent bird, except in the breeding season, when I have 
often heard the male utter a note something like that of the ring- 
dove, as he swam round and round his mate, bobbing his head 
rapidly all the time. On one occasion I met with a party of these 
birds evidently engaged hi pairing, my attention being drawn to 
them by a chorus of grunting notes the males were uttering. It 
was a most animated sight, and the drakes were constantly chasing 
each other with angry cries, or swimming excitedly round the ducks, 
with trembling wings and heads swaying up and down. The noise 
made by this party of eiders could be distinctly heard a mile across 
the water. 1 

The nest, as a rule, is placed near the sea, sometimes on the tops 
of lofty cliffs, and is usually concealed among the coarse grass, heath, 
and herbage that grow in such situations. It is a hollow lined 
with fine grass and seaweed, and a quantity of down plucked from 
the under parts of the sitting-bird. The eggs are five to seven in 



EIDER DUCK 



258 



number, and are smooth, oval in shape, and of a pale dull green 
colour. The female continues to pluck down from her body during 
incubation, until the eggs are enveloped in a large mass of it ; and 
on leaving the nest to feed she covers the eggs with the down. At 
this time the drake is not wholly forgetful of her, and on her ap- 
pearance, when she leaves her eggs to feed, he usually keeps company 
with her, and after she has left the water rejoins his male com- 
panions. 

The drake is at all times a shy and wary bird ; but in the breeding 
season the ducks, if not molested, are very tame, and at the Fame 
Islands the sitting-bird will sometimes allow her back to be stroked, 
without leaving her eggs. 



Common Scoter. 
CEdemia nigra. 




Fia. 85. COMMON SCOTEB. 



natural size. 



Black, the upper parts glossy ; central ridge of the upper man- 
dible orange. Length, twenty inches. Female : blackish brown 
above, dark brown below. 

The common, or black scoter, is a large, handsome bird, whose 
handsomeness is due to its uniform blackness, reminding one of 
those two familiar beauties and favourites, the blackbird and the 
domestic black cat; and as with these two one with splendid 



254 BEITISH BIBDS 

yellow eyes, the other with a golden dagger for a beak so is the 
scoter's blackness relieved, and its handsomeness brought out, by a 
touch of bright orange on the upper mandible. It is the most 
marine of the diving ducks, and a deep-sea feeder like the long- 
tailed duck. Its breeding-grounds are in northern Europe, West 
Siberia, and Iceland, .but a few pairs breed annually in the north 
of Scotland. The nest is a hollow in the ground near the sea, 
lined with dead leaves and grass, and with down from the sitting- 
bird. The eggs are eight or nine in number, and of a pale greyish 
buff. In winter the black scoter visits our coasts in thousands, 
and is the most common sea- duck. It does not appear to breed 
until its second year, as large numbers in miniature plumage remain 
on our coasts throughout the summer. The scoter has a harsh 
cry like that of the tufted duck, and in spring the drake has a 
love-call, said to be not unmusical. 



Velvet Scoter. 
(Edemia fusca. 

Plumage velvet-black, except a small white patch behind the 
eye and a conspicuous white bar across the wing; bill apricot- 
yellow, with a black tubercle at the base ; irides white ; legs and 
toes orange-red ; webs black. Length, twenty-two inches. Female : 
sooty brown ; a large dull white patch before, and a smaller one 
behind, the eye ; speculum less denned than in the male. 

Mr. Abel Chapman, comparing this species with the last de- 
scribed, has given the best picture of it. He says : ' The velvet 
scoter is a larger and handsomer species, the jet-black plumage of 
the old drakes being peculiarly rich and glossy, and is easily distin- 
guished at any distance by the broad white speculum on the wings, 
closely resembling an old black cock, if one could imagine such a 
bird far out at sea.' It is not known whether the velvet scoter 
breeds in Scotland or not. In summer it is found on inland lakes 
in Scandinavia and Northern Russia, and it visits our coasts in 
whiter, but not in such large numbers as the common scoter. It is 
Dot so exclusively marine in its habits as that species. 



GOOSANDER 



255 



Goosander. 

Mergus merganser. 




FIG. 86. GOOSANDER. ^ natural size. 

Bill and irides blood-red ; head and upper neck glossy dark 
green ; lower neck and under parts white tinged with salmon-pink ; 
upper back and scapulars black ; wing-coverts white ; primaries 
and some of the secondaries ash-brown ; lower back and tail ash- 
grey ; legs and feet orange-red. Length, twenty-six inches. The 
female is less conspicuously coloured, and has a reddish brown head 
and neck. 

The mergansers are sea-ducks of slimmer and more elegant 
forms than the species already described, and differ from scaups, 
eiders, and scoters as terns differ from gulls. They have grebe -like 
necks and long, slender, serrated bills, and a variegated plumage 
with strongly contrasted colours. 

The goosander is the largest of the three British species, and is 
not uncommon in winter on some parts of the coast, and is abundant 
in the west districts of Scotland. Its visits to the coasts of England 
and Ireland occur chiefly in severe seasons. It is also a breeder 
in the Highlands of Scotland. In its summer haunts in Scandi- 



266 BRITISH BIED8 

navia and north of the arctic circle the goosander affects rivers and 
inland lakes, but is also found on the sea-coast. But whether on 
sea or lake, the water is its element ; and being somewhat grebe- 
like in form, with the legs placed very far back, it sits erect, and 
moves with difficulty on land. On the water it submerges its body 
when swimming like the cormorant, and, like that bird, preys on 
fish, pursuing and capturing them under water. 

The goosander has a habit very singular in a bird of its conform- 
ation and marine habits during the greater part of the year: it 
breeds in the hollow trunk of a tree. Seebohm relates that the 
Finns take advantage of this habit, and of the goosander's readiness 
to make use of an artificial substitute for the hollow trunk, by 
fastening hollow boxes, with a trapdoor behind, to the trees. The 
peasant robs the nest daily until a score or more eggs have been 
taken ; the bird is then allowed to keep and hatch any more that 
may be laid, so that the following year's harvest may not be spoilt. 
He adds that if there is no hollow tree, and no boxes are provided, 
the nest is made in a hole under a rock, and that the bird has been 
known to breed in an old nest of a crow or bird of prey in a tree. 
When the nest is at a distance from the ground the parent bird 
removes her young in her beak, carrying them down one by one, 
then leading them to the water. The nest is made of weeds and 
moss, and a quantity of down from the bird is added. Eight to 
twelve eggs are laid, smooth-shelled, and creamy white in colour. 

The call of the goosander is a low whistling cry. 



Red-breasted Merganser. 

Mergus serrator. 

Bill and irides red ; head, including crest and upper neck, dark 
glossy green ; below, a white collar, divided on the nape by a narrow 
black line running to the, back, which is also black; the long fal- 
cated inner scapulars black, the outer ones white ; speculum white 
barred with black ; rump, flanks, and tail-coverts vermiculated with 
grey ; lower neck pale chestnut streaked with black, on each side 
a conspicuous tuft of white feathers edged with black ; under parts 
white ; legs and feet reddish orange. Length, twenty-four inches. 
The female has the head and neck reddish brown, and is less richly 
coloured than the male, and much smaller. 



RED-BREASTED MERGANSER 257 

The present species exceeds the goosander in elegance of form 
and in handsomeness of colouring and ornament. It is a winter 
visitor, and also a resident throughout the year on the coast of 
Scotland north of the Clyde, and of the Orkneys, Shetlands, 
Hebrides, and St. Kilda. In Scotland and Ireland it inhabits inland 
lakes and rivers, as well as the sea- coasts. During the cold season 
it is gregarious, and usually goes in small flocks. In March these 
companies break up, and male and female are thereafter seen always 
in close companionship. They are excessively shy and wary birds, 




FIG. 87. KED-BREASTED MEBGANSEB. ^ natural size. 

diving or taking to flight on the least alarm. They feed on small 
fishes and marine molluscs, which they take by diving ; near the 
shore, where the water is shallow, they are often seen with head and 
neck almost continuously immersed as they explore among the seaweed 
at the bottom for food. They swim like the cormorant, having the 
faculty of sinking the body beneath the surface ; and also dive like 
that bird, springing up and plunging down almost vertically. The 
favourite nesting-place is on an island, under the shelter of a rock, 
sometimes in a hole in the ground. The nest is formed of leaves 
and grass placed in a slight hollow, down being added later by the 
incubating bird. Six to nine eggs are laid, sometimes as many as 
twelve. The eggs are glossy, and pale olive -grey in colour. The 
drake does not assist in incubation or in protecting the young. 



258 BRITISH BIRDS 

Smew. 
Mergus albellus. 

Forehead, crown, with crest, throat, neck, and under parts satin- 
white ; a black patch before and below the eye. and a greenish black 
triangular patch on the crest ; back black, with a crescentic mottled 
band of the same colour stretching over each side of the shoulders, 
and another hi front of each whig ; scapulars white margined with 
black ; lesser wing-coverts white ; greater coverts black, with two 
narrow white bars ; wing- and tail-feathers blackish brown ; flanks 
vermiculated with grey ; bill, legs, and feet lead-colour. Length, 
seventeen inches. Female : head reddish brown ; collar ash-grey ; 
rest of the plumage much as hi the male. In June the male 
assumes the female plumage, which is retained until the autumn. 

The smew, or nun, as it is sometimes called, is usually placed 
among the irregular visitors to the British Islands, and hardty 
comes within the scope of this book ; but there is reason to believe 
that it is present every winter, although sometimes hi very small 
numbers, in the seas around our coasts ; and it has, therefore, some 
claim to be described as a British species. Females and immature 
birds, called red-headed smews by fishermen, are frequently met 
with on the east coasts of England and Scotland ; males in the 
beautiful mature plumage are very rare, it is supposed because they 
do not approach the shore, except in very severe weather. 

In its breeding habits the smew resembles the goosander, laying 
its eggs hi the trunk of a hollow tree. Finnish Lapland is said to 
be the western limits of its breeding range. 

Wood-Pigeon, or Ringdove. 
Columba palumbus. 

Head bluish grey ; sides and back of neck glossed with violet and 
green, bounded on each side by a patch of white ; upper parts grey, 
the wing-coverts broadly edged with white, forming a conspicuous 
bar; tail-feathers dark slate-grey; under parts reddish purple, 
pale on the belly ; bill orange, powdered with white at the base ; 
legs and feet bright red. Length, seventeen inches. 



WOOD-PIGEON, OB EINGDOVE 259 

Of the four species of British doves, the wood-pigeon is the most 
interesting, as well as the best known, on account of its large size, 
its abundance, and general diffusion throughout the country, and its 
plaintive music, so familiar to everyone ; not in the rural districts 
only, but even in London town, where this bird exists in a semi- 
domestic state, and is seen to be actually tamer than the domestic 
pigeons it frequently associates with. Like most widely diffused and 
well-known species, it is called by various names : quest and cushat 
in the north, and, in England, ringdove and wood-pigeon. The last 
name, which it once shared with the stock-dove, is now becoming 
the most general. 

For many years past the wood-pigeon has been increasing in 
numbers, and, in Scotland, extending its range ; this is no doubt 
due to the spread of cultivation and the planting of trees, and to the 
extirpation of its natural enemies, the rapacious birds, by game- 
keepers. But, in spite of all this, it is really surprising that the 
wood-pigeon should continue to increase, considering that it is one 
of the most persecuted of wild birds, and is perpetually being shot 
at by everyone in possession of a gun, from various motives. It 
affords good sport, and is a good bird for the table, and is heartily 
disliked by the farmers. It is an exceedingly voracious feeder, and 
as it is partial to grain of all kinds, to young turnip buds and 
leaves, also to the roots in which rooks or other birds have first 
pecked a hole, the amount of damage it does is very considerable. 
It also devours gooseberries, green corn, young clover, acorns, 
beech-mast, and wild fruit of most kinds. But the pigeon is not 
purely a pest to the farmer ; after the harvest, when it resorts to the 
stubbles, it consumes an Immense quantity of seeds of charlock and 
other noxious weeds. 

In autumn and winter the number of wood-pigeons is greatly 
increased by the arrival of large flocks from the Continent ; and at 
this season, and until March, it is not uncommon to see them con- 
gregated in thousands. 

The wood-pigeon is the handsomest, as well as the largest, of the 
British doves, its dove-grey tints being singularly delicate, soft, 
and harmonious, and their effect heightened by the white marks 
and touch of iridescent colour on the neck. On the ground its 
motions are deliberate, and have a graceful dignity which contrasts 
strongly with the hurried, eager manner of the rock-pigeon and 
stock- dove. When startled from its perch it rushes out with great 
violence and loud clapping of the wings. Its flight is easy and 



260 BRITISH BIRDS 

powerful ; and before alighting, when it sweeps swiftly and silently 
on its long, sharp-pointed wings through the glades of a wood, it 
sometimes has a singularly hawk-like appearance. Even the wild 
birds in the wood may be deceived by it, and thrown for a few 
moments into a violent commotion. 

The wood-pigeon's familiar song may be heard in favourable 
weather throughout the year, but its voice gains greatly in beauty 
in the breeding season. In May and June the love-note of this 
pigeon is one of the woodland sounds that never fail to delight the 
ear. It commonly happens that birds improve in voice in the 
season of courtship ; and not only do they acquire greater richness 
and purity in their strains, but there is at this season an increased 
beauty and grace in their gestures and motions, and in most species 
the male indulges in pretty or fantastic antics a kind of love-dance, 
in which he exhibits his charms to the female he is desirous of win- 
ning. All doves have performances of this kind, and that of the 
wood-pigeon is not the least graceful. On the ground, or on a branch, 
he makes his curious display before the female, approaching her 
with lowered head, and with throat and neck puffed out, in a suc- 
cession of little hops, spreading his tail fanwise, and flirting his 
wings so as to display their white bars. All at once he quits his 
stand, and rising in the air to a height of thirty or forty yards, turns, 
and glides downwards in a smooth and graceful curve. This mount- 
ing aloft and circling descent is very beautiful to see, and produces 
the idea that the bird has been suddenly carried away by an access 
of glad emotion. 

Breeding begins in April, and, in very favourable seasons, even 
as early as the first week in March. The nest is a slight platform 
of slender sticks laid across each other on the smaller branches or 
twigs of a tree, usually at a good height from the ground, and the 
eggs are two, with pure white, glossy shells. Two, and sometimes 
three, broods are reared in the season. 

The young are fed on a substance called ' pigeon's milk,' a thick 
white, curd-like fluid, consisting of the partially digested food the 
parent bird has swallowed, and which is regurgitated from its crop. 
In feeding, the young bird thrusts its beak deep down into the 
mouth of its parent and literally drinks. The pigeons alone among 
birds feed their young in this way ; and they also differ from other 
birds in drinking like mammals, taking a continuous draught 
instead of a series of sips. 



STOCK-DOVE 261 

Stock-Dove. 

Columba cenas. 

Head, throat, wings, and lower parts bluish grey; the lower 
parts of the neck with metallic reflections ; breast wine-red ; a black 
spot on the last two secondaries and some of the wing- coverts ; 
primaries grey at the base, passing into dusky ; tail grey, barred 
with black at the extremity, the outer feather with a white spot on 
the outer web, near the base ; iris reddish brown ; bill yellow, red 
at the base ; feet red. Length, thirteen and a half inches. 

The stock-dove is a third smaller than the wood-pigeon, and in 
size, colouring, and appearance when flying, so closely resembles the 
common pigeon, or rock-dove, as to be often mistaken for it. But 
it differs from the better-known bird in the uniform blue colour of 
the back : the rock-dove has a white patch on the rump. It is not 
so abundant nor so widely diffused as the species last described, 
being most common in the southern and eastern counties of 
England ; but it is found in suitable localities throughout England 
and Wales, and is extending its range in Scotland ; also, in a less 
degree, in Ireland. In some localities in the south it is so abundant 
that its low, monotonous, crooning or ' grunting ' voice may be heard 
all day long in summer like a continuous murmur in the woods. 
It prefers ancient woods, and breeds in holes in trees and pollard 
tops, and from this habit it is said to derive its name of stock-dove. 
It is also an inhabitant of seaside cliffs, like the rock-dove ; and at 
Flamborough Head, on the Yorkshire coast, both species may be 
found breeding in the same caverns, and sometimes associating in 
flocks together. In districts with a sandy soil it nests on the 
ground in a rabbit -burrow, or under a thick furze-bush. A very 
slight nest is made of twigs and sticks, and in many cases no nest 
at all. The eggs are two in number, and of a light cream-colour. 

Rock-Dove. 

Columba livla. 

Bluish ash, lighter on the wings; rump white; neck and 
breast lustrous, with green and purple reflections ; two transverse 
black bands on the wing ; primaries and tail tipped with black ; 



262 BRITISH BIRDS 

outer tail-feathers white on the outer web ; iris pale orange ; bill 
black ; feet red. Length, twelve and a half inches. 

The rock-dove, or blue rock, the wild form of the domestic 
pigeon, is very rarely found breeding in any inland locality in the 




FIQ. 88. Eocz-DovE. natural size. 



British Islands ; in Spain and Italy, and other parts of continental 
Europe, it is an inhabitant of the mountainous districts. With us it 
inhabits the rock-bound coasts of Scotland and its islands, and 
of Ireland, and, very sparsely, the south and east coasts of England, 
and breeds in caverns, making its nests on the ledges of the rock. 
In its language, flight, and habits it is indistinguishable from the 
bird familiar to everyone in a domestic state. 

Turtle- Dove. 

Turtur communis. 

Head and nape ash tinged with wine-red ; a space on the sides 
of the neck composed of black feathers tipped with white; neck 
and breast pale wine-red ; back ash-brown ; primaries dusky ; 
secondaries bluish ash ; scapulars and wing-coverts rust-red, with 
ft black spot in the centre of each 'feather ; belly and under tail- 



TURTLE-DOVE 263 

coverts white ; tail dusky, all but the two middle feathers tipped 
with white, the outer feather edged with white externally; iris 
yellowish red; feet red; bill brown. Length, eleven and a half 
inches. 

The turtle-dove differs from other British doves in its much 
smaller size and in being a summer visitor to England. It arrives 
in the southern counties at the end of April, and ranges as far 
north as Westmorland and Cumberland ; in the west of England, 
and in Wales and Ireland, it is a somewhat scarce bird. Like the 
wood-pigeon and the stock-dove, it is believed to be increasing its 




FIG. 89. TUBTLB-DOVE. | natural size. 

numbers. It inhabits woods and plantations, and being of a shy 
disposition, is not often noticed. In the autumn it may be seen in 
small companies, usually composed of a pair of old birds and their 
young ; at other times it goes alone or with its mate. Its spring song 
is a cooing note, very soft and agreeable, and somewhat plaintive 
in sound. The nest is made at no great height, a large bush or 
a hedge being as often selected for a site as a tree. It is a slight 
structure of slender sticks and twigs laid crosswise, and the two 
eggs are creamy-white. Two broods are reared in the season. 

In September the turtle-doves take their departure to their 
winter haunts in Africa. 



264 BEITISH BIBDS 

A few specimens of the handsome and elegant passenger-pigeon 
(Ectopistesmigratorius), a North American species, once excessively 
abundant in that continent, but now nearly extinct, have been 
obtained in this country. 

Pallas's sand-grouse (Syrrhaptes paradoxus), a curious and 
handsome bird, related structurally to the pigeons, is also included in 
works on British birds. Its home is the steppes of Central Asia, 
but from time to tune visitations of this species, sometimes in very 
large numbers, have occurred in Europe, extending to the British 
Islands. The last and largest visitation of this kind occurred in 
1888. 

Pheasant. 
Phasianus colchicus. 

Head and neck glossed with metallic reflections of green, blue, 
and yellow; sides of head bare, scarlet, minutely spotted with 
black ; plumage spotted and banded with red, purple, brown, yellow, 
green, and black. Length, three feet. Female : light brown marked 
with dusky ; sides of head feathered. 

The pheasant has had a remarkable and a very long history, 
extending back into the period of myth and fable to the famous 
expedition of the Argonauts, who brought back this bird, with some 
other curious and beautiful objects, including the golden fleece, 
from the banks of the river Phasis, in Colchis. That, at all events, 
is the tradition which science has preserved in both names of the 
species. It is not incredible that the pheasant was introduced 
into Europe twelve and a half centuries before Christ; for we 
know that our familiar homing pigeon was employed as a letter- 
carrier by the Egyptians at an even earlier date. When and by 
whom it was first introduced into England is not known. There is 
evidence that the bird existed and was held in great esteem in this 
country before the Norman Conquest ; and the belief is that it was 
brought hither by the Romans, who were accustomed to introduce 
' strange animals ' into the countries they conquered, and who gave 
the fallow-deer to Britain. That the first pheasants brought to 
Europe were obtained on the banks of the Phasis now the Eiou 
is highly probable, since the marshy woods in the neighbourhood of 
that stream are still the headquarters of the aboriginal wild bird. 







Ill 



PHEASANT 265 

Its habits appear curiously persistent : it must have wood, dense 
cover, and water in abundance to thrive. In Britain, where it has 
been permitted to run free in the woods for the last sixteen or 
seventeen centuries, it is still scarcely able to maintain its existence 
without the strictest protection and a great deal of attention on the 
part of man. It is known that when the birds are left to shift for 
themselves they soon decrease in numbers, and eventually die out, 
except in a few rare cases where the conditions are extremely 
favourable. How heavy the cost is of keeping pheasants in numbers 
sufficient for the purposes of sport is well known to all those who 
have preserves. 

An interesting fact about the pheasant is, that the various species 
forming the group to which our bird belongs freely interbreed when 
they come together, and produce hybrids which are fertile. A 
Chinese species, the ring-necked pheasant, which is a little smaller 
than the British bird, was introduced into this country at the end 
of the last century, and everywhere the two species have interbred 
so freely that it is now scarcely possible to find a bird which does 
not show traces of hybridism. 

An account of the habits of the pheasant would be superfluous 
here, as this bird, in the nearly semi-domestic state in which it exists 
throughout the country, is as familiar to most persons as the fowl. 

Red-legged Partridge. 
Caccabis rufa. 

Throat and cheeks white, surrounded by a black band, which 
spreads itself out over the breast and sides of the neck in the form 
of numerous spots and lines, with which are intermixed a few white 
spots ; upper parts reddish ash ; on the flanks a number of crescent- 
shaped spots ; the convexity towards the tail rust-red ; the centre 
black bordered by white ; beak, orbits, and feet bright red. Length, 
thirteen and a half inches. 

The red-legged partridge, or French partridge, as it is often 
called, is, like the pheasant, a naturalised species, introduced by 
man ; but its history as a British bird is comparatively a short one. 
and devoid of romance. A first attempt to naturalise it was made 
in the reign of Charles II., but was not successful ; on its reintro- 
duction. about a hundred and twenty years ago, it proved well able 



266 BRITISH BIEDS 

to maintain existence in its new surroundings. Owing to its swift- 
ness of foot and excessive wildness it was difficult for the sportsman 
to get within shooting distance of it, when partridges were shot over 
dogs. On this account it was disliked ; so much so in some cases 
that attempts were made to extirpate it. But in spite of persecution 
it continued to increase, and is now found distributed over a large 
part of England, from the southern counties to Westmorland. 





FIG. 90. BED-LEGGED PARTKIDGK. natural size. 

It differs from the common partridge in language and habits, as 
well as in its more conspicuously marked plumage and bright red 
legs. It is not a bird of the homestead, being partial to dry, sandy 
soils, to commons, and uncultivated lands. Its call-note is a musical, 
piping cry. It breeds early, and makes a slight nest on the ground. 
The eggs are fifteen to eighteen in number, yellowish white in ground- 
colour, and blotched with brown. 

An allied species, the Barbary partridge (Caccabispetrosa), has 
been included, as a rare straggler to England, among British birds. 



PAETEIDGE 



2GT 



Partridge. 
Perdix cinerea. 




FIQ. 91. PABTBIDGB. | natural size. 

Plumage grey and reddish brown, the male with a chestnut 
horseshoe patch on the lower breast. Length, twelve and a half 
inches. 

The partridge is a favourite of the ornithologist, and of all lovers 
of our wild bird life. A handsome and interesting bird, he is the 
only indigenous gallinaceous species in Britain that is not adversely 
affected by the reclamation of waste lands and the spread of cultiva- 
tion. On the contrary, the changes that prove fatal to other game- 
birds are advantageous to him, since he flourishes most on rich 
soils, and where agriculture is most advanced. As a bird of the 
homestead he is made dear by association to those who have passed 
their early years in rural England ; to the sportsman he is more, 
in the long run, than any other game-bird we possess, on account of 
his greater abundance and more general distribution. 

Except during the breeding season, the partridge is gregarious, 
keeping in coveys of half a dozen to twenty or more birds. Their feed- 



268 BRITISH BIRDS 

ing-times are early in, the morning and in the afternoon. Towards 
noon they repair to some secluded spot to take their ease and dust 
themselves ; and, if the weather be genial, to lie basking in the sun- 
shine. At dusk they resort to some open place, usually the central 
part of a field of grass, to roost, or 'jug,' as it is called ; and it may 
then be seen that the covey is not a mere chance assemblage, but a 
community, under the leadership of one individual, presumably the 
oldest and most sagacious cock bird among them. At the approach of 
sunset, and until dark, the call of the leader may be heard from the 
chosen roosting-ground. It is a familiar sound to everyone in the 
rural districts a harsh and powerful cry ; but, like the clamour of 
blackbirds and redwings on going to rest, and the cawing of rooks 
at eventide, it has a great charm for the lover of nature. In cha- 
racter it resembles the call of the guinea-fowl, but is somewhat more 
metallic, and is more powerful and far-reaching. When the birds 
are assembled, they settle down for the night a little distance apart 
from each other, disposed in a circle, all with faces turned outwards. 
Disposed hi this form, it must be difficult for any prowling animal 
to come upon them without being detected by some one bird in the 
covey. 

In spring, usually in March, pairing takes place, and the coveys 
break up ; but if snow or frost supervenes the birds pack again, and 
wait in company for the return of milder weather. In the pairing 
season the males are jealous and pugnacious, and two cocks are 
often seen engaged in fierce fight, making the fields resound, mean- 
while, with their angry cries. 

The nest is placed on the ground, among the growing corn, or 
under the shelter of an untrimmed hedge, and is a mere hollow 
scratched in the earth, with a slight lining of dead grass and leaves. 
The eggs vary in number from six or seven to eighteen, and are of 
a uniform, olive-brown colour. "When the young have been hatched 
by the female the male assists in rearing and protecting them, and 
both birds display intense anxiety and great boldness in the presence 
of danger, and will drag themselves over the ground, with flapping 
and trailing wings, within a few yards of a man or dog, to entice him 
away from their chicks. The young feed principally on insect food, 
small caterpillars, and larvse of ants, of which they are extremely 
fond. The old birds include green leaves, buds, gram, and seeds of 
weeds, in their dietary. 



QUAIL 



269 



Quail. 
Coturnix communis. 




FIG. 92. QUAIL, i natural size. 

Head mottled with black and reddish brown, with three parallel, 
longitudinal, yellowish streaks ; upper parts ash-brown variegated 
with black and straw-colour ; neck reddish yellow, with a double 
crescent of dusky brown ; breast pale reddish brown streaked with 
white ; bill and feet yellowish brown. Length, eight niches. Female : 
paler, and wanting the double crescent on the neck. 

The quail is a summer visitor to this country, arriving in May. 
It is nowhere a common bird, although widely distributed, and it 
has been found breeding in most parts of the British Islands. Occa- 
sionally it is met with in winter, most often in Ireland. Immedi- 
ately after its arrival the call of the male is heard morning and 
evening, a shrill, piping note of three syllables, supposed to resemble 
the words wet my lips, or wet my feet, according to the hearer's 
fancy. This call is repeated again and again, with some slight 
variation in the sound. The nest is a slight hollow scratched in a 
corn-field, among grass or clover, and the eggs number seven or eight 
to twelve, and even a larger number is sometimes found. They are 
speckled and blotched with umber-brown on a yellowish white 



270 BRITISH BIRDS 

ground. Two broods are reared in the season. The quail prefers 
open, rough grass country to cultivated land. Its food consists of 
seeds, grain, and insects. 

The quail is hi appearance a very small partridge, being little 
more than half the size of that bird. It is singular that hi the very 
limited number of gallinaceous birds that exist wild in this country 
there should be included the capercaillie, the largest of the order, 
with, perhaps, the exception of one American species, and the diminu- 
tive quail a giant and a pigmy. 

Historically, the small species is the more important of the two. 
He is a Bible bird, and was as familiar as the eagle and the crane to 
the civilised nations of antiquity in Asia and Africa, where letters 
and arts had their origin, when the great wood-grouse was known 
only to the barbarians of Europe. 

When we consider how bound to earth (like our unfortunate selves) 
the gallinaceous birds are, seldom using their wings, unless to escape 
from some sudden, pressing danger into the nearest cover, it strikes 
us as very wonderful that the plump little quail should be as great 
a migrant as the most aerial kinds the swallows and the warblers. 
When with us hi the summer he is a dweller on the ground, an 
earth-lover, like his stay-at-home relation, the partridge ; yet in his 
wide wanderings he crosses seas, vast deserts, and the loftiest 
mountain chains ; and by means of this migratory instinct he has 
diffused himself over the three great continents of Europe, Asia, 
and Africa. 

Ptarmigan. 

Lagopus mutus. 

Winter : pure white ; a black line from the angle of the beak 
through the eye ; outer tail-feathers black ; above the eye a scarlet 
fringed membrane ; beak black ; tarsi and toes thickly clothed with 
woolly feathers. Female : without the black line through the eyes. 
Summer : wings, under tail-coverts, two middle tail-feathers, and 
legs white; outer tail-feathers black, some of them tipped with 
white ; all the rest of the plumage ash-brown marked with black 
lines and dusky spots. Length, fifteen inches. 

In the British Islands the ptarmigan is at present confined to 
the Highlands of Scotland, the ' region of stones,' and to some of its 
islands, where, however, it is decreasing hi numbers. 



PTARMIGAN 271 

A peculiar interest attaches to this bird on account of its change 
of plumage from brown in summer to snow-white in whiter, and of the 
fact that it inhabits only the summits and slopes of high mountains. 
These two things the white whiter plumage and the mountain habit 
have a close connection. The periodical change to white is a 
common phenomenon in arctic animals, both birds and mammals, 
and all the species of grouse of the genus to which the ptarmigan 
belongs assume the white dress in winter, with one exception the red 
grouse of the British Islands. Thus, in Britain we have two grouse 
of this group (Lagopus), one of which turns white like the conti- 
nental grouse, while the other keeps its brown dress throughout the 
year. To explain this difference it must be assumed that both 
species inhabited Britain at a period wLen its climate was an 
intensely cold one, and that both species changed their colour to 
protective white in the season of snow. When the British climate 
changed, and became so mild that the snow no longer remained 
unmelted for months at a time on the lower levels, all such 
creatures as had the arctic habit of becoming white hi whiter would 
be in danger of extermination, since their intense whiteness on the 
brown or green earth would make them fatally conspicuous to their 
enemies. A white grouse on a brown moor would be visible for 
miles to high-soaring birds of prey. The red grouse escaped des- 
truction by losing its white winter dress : the change in it from two 
distinct liveries to one colour for all seasons was doubtless gradual, 
extending over a period of very many centuries, keeping pace with the 
slowly improving climate. He ended by becoming a bird that was 
wholly brown in winter, while the willow-grouse of northern Europe 
and Asia the continental form, and, it may be added, the parent, 
form of our bird of the moors continued to change to white periodi- 
cally. Meanwhile no such change took place in the ptarmigan's 
plumage : he alone continued to assume the pure white winter dress, 
as if to keep alive the tradition of an ancient arctic Britain ; and yet 
he survived. He escaped destruction because he was a hardier bird, 
and preferred the higher grounds, where the snows never melted in 
winter. At the northern limit of its range, north of the arctic circle, 
the ptarmigan inhabits the fells and level country ; in Europe it is 
everywhere confined to the higher slopes of lofty mountains; in 
other words, wherever found and it ranges as far south as the 
mountains of Spam it still has an arctic climate. The bird exists 
' islanded ' on high mountains, separated from the rest of its kind by 
wide spaces of low-lying country as impassable to it as the sea. 



272 BEITISH BIRDS 

The ptarmigan breeds in May. Its nest is well concealed, and 
is merely a slight hollow in the ground, lined with a little dry grass. 
Eight to ten eggs are laid, of a yellowish white blotched with dark 
brown. In autumn or early in winter the birds pack, and some- 
times as many as fifty are seen in one flock. Macgillivray has the 
following interesting account of the bird in its mountain haunts : 
'These beautiful birds, while feeding, run and walk among the 
weather-beaten and lichen-crested fragments of rock, from which it 
is very difficult to distinguish them when they remain motionless, 
as they invariably do should a person be in sight. Indeed, unless 
you are directed to a particular spot by their strange low, croaking 
cry, you may pass through a flock of ptarmigans without observing 
a single individual, although some of them may not be ten yards 
distant. When squatted, however, they utter no sound, their object 
being to conceal themselves ; and if you discover the one from which 
the cry has proceeded, you generally find him on the top of a stone, 
ready to spring off the moment you show an indication of hostility. 
If you throw a stone at him, he rises, utters his call, and is 
immediately joined by all the individuals around, which, to your 
surprise, if it be your first rencontre, you see spring up one by one 
from the bare ground.' 

Red Grouse. 

Lagopus scoticus. 

Plumage reddish brown on the head and neck, and chestnut 
brown, barred and speckled with black, on the upper parts ; the 
feathers of the breast almost black, with white tips. In summer the 
general colour is lighter ; in winter the under parts are frequently 
mottled with white. Length, sixteen inches. Female : more reddish 
yellow in colour. 

One sunny morning a few months ago, as I stood on a mountain 
slope among bracken, ling, and furze, and scattered masses of grey 
rock, watching a small party of grouse near me, it struck me that I 
had never looked on a more beautiful creature than this bird : so 
finely shaped and richly coloured, and proud and free in carriage, 
and in such perfect harmony with the rough vegetation and that wild 
and solitary nature amid which it exists. It is not strange that this 
species should have a fascination above all others for the sportsman 



RED GEOUSE 273 

that he is willing to go farther and spend more in its pursuit ; for it 
is not the bird only that draws him : the fascination is of that un- 
adulterated nature of which the bird is a part, and the sense of 
liberty and savage life that returns to man in the midst of mountain 
and moorland scenery. 

To the ornithologist the grouse has another great distinction : 
it is the only species of bird exclusively British. It is generally 
distributed in Scotland and its islands, the Shetlands excepted. It 
also inhabits the moors in the northern counties of England, and of 
Wales as far south as Glamorgan ; and of Ireland, where, un- 
happily, it is decreasing in numbers. 

The grouse feeds principally on the tender shoots of the heather ; 
and also eats leaves and buds of other plants, and such wild fruits 
as grow on or near the moors. In autumn and winter it is gregarious, 
and in some localities the males and females pack separately. Pair- 
ing takes place very early in the spring, and the male, as is usual in 
the grouse family, courts the female with curious sounds and a fan- 
tastic dancing performance. The wooing takes place very early in 
the morning, before there is light enough to feed. Flying up to a 
height of fifteen or twenty feet into the air, he drops down uttering a 
succession of powerful ringing notes, which end as the bird reaches 
the ground. This is repeated again and again until daylight and 
feeding-time suspend the performance. The red grouse is strictly 
monogamous, and each pair retires to its own chosen nesting-place, 
where a slight hollow is scratched under a tuft of ling, and five or 
six to twelve eggs are laid. They are pale olive in ground-colour, 
blotched with dark red. The female alone incubates, but the male 
assists in rearing and protecting the young. The chicks when small 
feed chiefly on small caterpillars. 



Black Grouse. 
Tetrao tetrix. 

Black with violet reflections ; a broad white band on the wings ; 
secondaries tipped with white ; lower tail-coverts white ; eyebrows 
naked, vermilion ; a white spot beneath the eye. Length, twenty- 
three inches. Female : head and neck rust-red barred with black ; 
rump and tail-feathers black barred with red ; belly dusky brown 
with red and whitish bars. 

u 



274 BEITISH BIRDS 

The black grouse is most abundant and generally distributed in 
Scotland and the northern counties of England, but is everywhere 
decreasing in numbers. In England its decline has been most 
marked, and in the southern counties, where it was formerly com- 
mon, it ceased to exist, except in the New Forest, where a few 
birds survive. It has been reintroduced in some localities, but so 
far has not thriven well. In Ireland it is not indigenous. 




FIG. 93. BLACKCOCK. fc natural size. 

Its large size, rich blue-black plumage, white wing-bar, scarlet 
wattles, and strange lyre-shaped ornament, formed by the outward- 
curving feathers of the tail, give the black cock an exceedingly fine 
appearance, and he is, perhaps, the handsomest of our game-birds. 
He inhabits both woods and moors, but is most partial to grounds of 
a mixed character, such as are found on the fringe of a moor, 
where woods and thickets are broken and varied with patches of 
heath. 

The black cock is polygamous ; and at the end of winter many 
birds meet together at an early hour of the morning, when the 
males utter their powerful call-notes, and strut to and fro, with tail 



BLACK GBOUSE 



275 



expanded and trailing wings, in the presence of the hens. These 
'matrimonial markets* are scenes of desperate combats between 
rival cocks. In the end each male retires with the females he has 
secured for his harem. The hen makes a slight nest under the 
shelter of a bush, and lays six to ten eggs, yellowish white, with 
orange -brown spots. The young feed principally on larvae of ants 
and other insects. Grain, seeds, berries and buds, and shoots of 
many kinds, are eaten by the old birds. 

Capercaillie. 

Tetrao urogallus. 




FIG. 94. CAP EBOAILLIB. j2 natural size. 

Feathers of the throat elongated, black ; head and neck dusky ; 
eyes with a bare red skin above and a white spot below ; wings 



276 BEITISH BIRDS 

brown speckled with black ; breast lustrous green ; belly black with 
white spots ; rump and flanks marked with undulating lines of black 
and ash colour ; tail black with white spots ; beak horn-white. 
Length, two feet ten inches. Female : a third smaller, barred and 
spotted with tawny red, black, and white ; throat tawny red ; breast 
deep red ; tail dark red with black bars, white at the tip. 

North Britain, with its islands, although poor in species com- 
paratively, has one glory which her larger, richer neighbour is with- 
out : her wilder districts still afford breeding- places to several of the 
larger species which have long ceased to exist in England. Of 
these are the osprey, sea-eagle, golden eagle, ptarmigan, and caper- 
caillie, the last the finest game-bird of Europe, with the sole excep- 
tion of the great bustard. The story of the capercaillie in Great 
Britain is singularly interesting. It became extinct about the 
middle of the last century, and was recovered some eighty or ninety 
years later, when it was reintroduced from Sweden in 1837-8, and 
has since spread over a large portion of Scotland, and continues to 
extend its range. 

The difference in size between the cock and hen capercaillie is 
greater than in any other game-bird. In Scotland, the weight of 
the male is from ten to eleven pounds, that of the female about 
four pounds and a hah*. In northern Europe the cock weighs as 
much as seventeen pounds. It is curious to find that in a large 
number of gallinaceous birds, the pheasants and grouse more especi- 
ally, the females have a near resemblance in size, form, and colour- 
ing. The divergence is mostly in the males, and is greatest in the 
polygamous species. Thus, it would be difficult to find two birds hi 
the same order more utterly unlike in appearance than the cock 
pheasant and capercaillie ; yet the females of the two species preserve 
a strong family likeness. 

The capercaillie feeds on the tender shoots of the Scotch fir, and 
on buds and shoots of other trees and plants, and berries of various 
kinds. He is an early breeder, and in spring the cock is heard 
uttering his powerful double cry, several times repeated in suc- 
cession, from a lofty perch in a pine-tree. While calling he puffs 
out his plumage and expands his tail like an angry turkey-cock. 
The call, which is uttered early in the morning, is a summons to 
the hens, who are not slow to obey it, and is also a challenge to 
other males. The same spot is used morning after morning for 
meetings, displays, and combats, until each male has secured hia 



CAPERCAILZIE 277 

tale of hens, whereupon breeding begins. The nest is a slight hol- 
low scratched in the ground under a bush, and the eggs are six to 
twelve in number. They are pale reddish yellow in ground-colour, 
spotted and blotched with brown. 

The male does not assume the mature plumage until the third 
year. 

Water- Rail. 
Rallus aquaticus. 

Bill red; crown, hind neck, and upper parts olive-brown, a 
black streak in the centre of each feather; cheeks, neck, and 
breast grey ; flanks blackish, barred with white ; legs and feet 
brownish flesh-colour. Length, eleven inches and a half. Female : 
duller in colour, the wing-coverts sometimes barred with white. 

The water-rail inhabits fens, marshes, and watercourses, moving 
rapidly in the rank vegetation, swimming and diving with ease, 
flying only when compelled, and rising heavily, with fluttering 
wings and dangling legs, and after a short flight dropping again 
into cover. Its shy, skulking habits make it appear a very rare 
bird, but it is found, although in small numbers, in most suitable 
localities in Great Britain and Ireland. Although it is met with 
throughout the year in this country, it is believed to be migratory, 
the birds that breed with us moving southwards in winter, when 
their places are taken by migrants arriving from more northern 
regions. 

The nest is made of reed-leaves, and is placed among coarse 
herbage or in a tussock of sedge. Seven to eleven eggs are laid, in 
colour pale creamy white, thinly flecked with reddish brown and 
grey. The nestlings are covered with black down. During the 
pairing and breeding time the rails are loquacious, frequently 
uttering their loud peculiar cry. 

Three other rails (genus Porzana) occur in the British Islands, 
one a regular visitant. They inhabit marshes, but in form are 
more like the corncrake than the water-rail. 

Spotted crake (Porzcma mcvruetta). A summer visitor, breeding 
sparingly in different parts of Great Britain. On account of its 
skulking habits and small size it is rarely seen. It lays eight to 
ten eggs, olive-buff in ground-colour, spotted with dark reddish 



278 



BRITISH BIRDS 



brown. In size it is about a fourth less than the water-rail ; the 
upper parts are olive-brown spotted with white ; crown dark 
brown ; face and neck dull grey ; breast brown spotted with white. 

Baillon's crake (Porzana bailloni). A somewhat rare visitor 
to Great Britain, but known to have bred in Norfolk. General 
colour warm brown flecked with black and white. Length, seven 
inches. 

Little crake (Porzana parva). A rare visitor to the British 
Islands, chiefly to the east coast. Upper parts olive-brown ; under 
parts slate-grey. Length, eight inches. 



Corncrake. 
Crex pratensis. 






FIG. 95. LANDRAIL. } natural size. 

Ash-grey patches above the eyes and on the cheeks ; feathers of 
the upper parts yellowish brown with dark centres ; wing-coverts 
and quills chestnut; throat white; breast greyish buff; belly 
white in the centre, and flanks broadly barred with brown and buff; 
bill and feet pale brown. Length, eleven inches. 

The corncrake is one of the commonest British birds. It is as 
largo as a partridge and more brightly coloured ; it lives on the 



CORNCRAKE 279 

ground, and, like the partridge, is to some extent a bird of the 
homestead. Yet it is rarely seen, for, of all skulking creatures, it is 
the shyest, swiftest of foot, and most elusive. Its narrow, wedge- 
like shape fits it to pass through the close, upright stems of the 
grass with perfect ease, and, with head and neck extended as if 
flying, it runs in the grass as rapidly as a plover or partridge over 
the smoothest ground. But though not seen it is heard, its low 
creaking cry sounding incessantly from morning till night in 
spring from the meadows and fields. This curious sound may be 
imitated by rapidly passing the thumb-nail along the teeth of a fine 
comb. The note is said to be uttered by the male, and is not often 
heard after breeding begins. The nest is made at the end of May, 
or in June, and is placed among growing corn or meadow grass, 
and is formed of dry grass and leaves. Seven to ten eggs are laid, 
reddish white in ground-colour, spotted with bright brown and 
grey. 

The corncrake, or landrail, is found throughout the British 
Islands, and is most abundant in rich pastures; in southern 
England and in Ireland it appears to be most numerous. At the 
beginning of October it migrates, but birds are not unfrequently 
met with in winter, particularly in Ireland. 

Moorhen. 
Gallinula chloropus. 

Fore part of the bill yellow ; base and frontal plate red ; irides 
red; upper parts dark olive-brown ; head, neck, and under parts 
slate-grey, with some white streaks on the flanks; under tail- 
coverts pure white ; legs greenish yellow, red above the tarsal joint. 
Length, thirteen inches. In this species the female is larger and 
more brightly coloured than the male. 

The moorhen is one of our most familiar wild birds ; for not 
only is it common and generally distributed in the British Islands, 
but where it is not molested, and the stream, or pond, or ditch it 
inhabits is close to the homestead, it becomes almost domestic in 
its habits, and will freely mix with the poultry and share their 
food. Furthermore, it attracts a good deal of attention, and is 
something of a favourite with most people, on account of its pretty 
appearance and quaint, graceful carriage, as it moves over the wrf 



280 BRITISH BIRDS 

with measured steps, nodding its head and jerking its tail in order 
to display the conspicuous snow-white under-coverts. 

The name of moorhen, which some writers dislike, is old 
English for marsh-hen, from moorish, which had the same meaning 
as marshy. Water-hen, another time-honoured name for this bird, 
is still in common use ; but mot-hen, or moat-hen, from the bird's 
habit of frequenting moats when moated houses were common in 
England, is now obsolete. 

The moorhen swims and dives with ease, and feeds a good deal 
in the water, usually keeping near the fringe of weeds, in which it 
takes refuge on the slightest alarm. When hunted it dives, and is 
able to remain submerged for an indefinite time by grasping the 
weeds at the bottom with its claws and keeping its nostrils above 
the surface. 

The nest is generally placed on the ground among the reeds 
or rushes, but many other sites are used; and sometimes it 
is built in a tree several feet above the ground. Seven or eight eggs 
are laid, reddish white in ground-colour, thinly speckled and spotted 
with orange-brown. The young when hatched are covered with a 
black hairy down. Two or three broods are reared in the season, and 
it has been observed that the young of the first brood sometimes 
assist the parents in making a new nest and in rearing the young 
of the second brood. 

The moorhen feeds on worms, slugs, insects of all kinds, and 
vegetable substances. 

Coot. 

Fulica atra. 

Beak pale flesh-colour ; bald patch on the forehead white ; 
irides crimson ; under parts sooty black ; above, slate-grey with a 
narrow white bar across the wing; legs and feet dark green. 
Length, eighteen inches. 

In its appearance the coot is a large plain-coloured moorhen. 
It is more aquatic in its habits than that bird, keeping almost as 
constantly on the water as a diving duck. Like its smaller re- 
lation, it prefers stagnant meres or ponds, or sluggish streams 
with marshy borders and a deep fringe of reeds for cover ; and it is 
to be met with in all suitable localities throughout the British 
Tblands. It is resident all the year, but in the north, when the 



COOT 281 

watercourses are frozen over in winter, it migrates to the tidal 
estuaries and the sea-coast, where it feeds on the mud-flats. The 
nest is a large structure, placed among the reeds or rushes, and 
built up to a height of several inches above the water. Seven to 
ten eggs are laid, of a light stone-colour, speckled with dark brown. 
The coot was formerly much more abundant than it is now in 
England, and was, perhaps, most numerous in the district of the 
Broads in Norfolk. Sir Thomas Browne, writing of the birds of 
Norfolk two centuries and a half ago, gives the following account of 
a singular habit of this bird : * Coots are in very great flocks on the 
broad waters. Upon the appearance of a kite or buzzard I have 
seen them unite from all parts of the shore in strange numbers ; 
when, if the kite stoop near them, they will fling up and spread 
such a flash of water with their wings that they will endanger the 
kite, and so keep him off again and again in open opposition.' This 
story, which reads like a fable, was found to be plain truth by Lord 
Lilford, who observed the coots on the lakes of Epirus, a district 
where birds of prey are abundant. He writes : * I have several 
times observed the singular manner in which a flock of these birds 
defend themselves against the white-tailed eagle. On the appear- 
ance over them of one of these birds they collect in a dense body, 
and when the eagle stoops at them they throw up a sheet of water 
with their feet, and completely baffle their enemy ; in one instance 
. . . they so drenched the eagle that it was with difficulty that he 
reached a tree on the shore not more than a hundred yards from 
the spot where he attacked them.' 

The order Alectorides, which follows, includes two, noble forms 
once common, but now extinct in this country. One is the crane 
(Grus communis), which was abundant in the fen country down to 
the latter end of the seventeenth century. The other, finest of 
British birds, is the great bustard (Otis tcvrda), which lived in 
all suitable localities in England, from the southern counties to 
Yorkshire, and was wantonly extirpated during the first half of the 
present century. 

The little bustard (Otis tetrax) occurs as a rare straggler in the 
eastern half of England. 

A single example of Macqueen's bustard (Otis macqueeni), an 
Asiatic species, was obtained in England half a century ago. 



282 BRITISH BIRDS 

Stone-Curlew. 

CEdicnemus scolopax. 





Fia. 96. STONE -CURLEW. natural size. 

Beak black, yellowish at the base ; irides, orbits, legs, and 
feet yellow ; upper parts mottled pale brown ; wing- coverts with 
white tips, forming two narrow bars ; quill black ; throat and 
stripe beneath the eye white ; neck and breast buff streaked with 
dark brown. Length, seventeen inches. Sexes alike. 

The stone-curlew owes it name to a superficial resemblance in 
its size and pale brown, mottled plumage to the common curlew, 
and to its preference for a sandy or stony soil. It is also called the 
thick-knee, from the curious conformation of its knees, which are 
very massive, and have a somewhat bulbous appearance. Its other 
common names are big plover and Norfolk plover, Norfolk and 
Suffolk being now the headquarters of this species in England, 
although it is still found in small and, sad to say, diminishing 
numbers in suitable localities from Hampshire and Dorsetshire in 



STONE-CUKLEW 283 

the south to the wolds of Lincolnshire and the East Biding of 
Yorkshire in the north. It does not occur in Ireland. It is a bird 
of a somewhat singular appearance, and is the sole representative 
of its family in Europe. It is a summer visitor to England, a 
few birds remaining to whiter hi the southern counties, and in- 
habits extensive heaths where there are patches of stony or pebbly 
ground ; and it also frequents fallows and downs. In its habits 
it is semi-nocturnal, feeding principally by night ; it is by night 
that its wild, clear, ringing cry is usually heard. Its breeding- 
time is about the middle of April, when it deposits its two eggs 
in a slight hollow hi the ground, among the flint pebbles and 
scanty vegetation. The eggs are buff-coloured, spotted and streaked 
with grey and brown, and are very hard to discover, so well do 
they harmonise in hue and markings with the sandy and pebbly 
ground on which they are placed. 

Mr. Trevor-Battye thus describes the nesting habits of the stone- 
curlew in his ' Pictures hi Prose ': * This bird, quite apart from its 
own very quaint appearance and habits, mast always have a great 
interest for British ornithologists, as it is the nearest surviving 
link we have with the great bustard, now, alas 1 extinct in this 
country. It is nocturnal in its habits, and is extremely wary and 
shy. Although on its arrival in spring it keeps well away in the 
open, it generally lays its eggs not far from a belt or covert of trees. 
The pair of which I speak had chosen the middle of a gravelly 
space among the pines. By creeping upon hands and knees under 
cover of a bank one could gain a position, just fifteen paces away 
from the nest, without being observed, so close that with my glass 
I could see the light shine through the crystal prominence of the 
sitting-bird's great yellow eyes. At intervals one bird would 
relieve the other on the nest. When disturbed the birds ran away 
for shelter to a bank beneath the pines. And here the bird that 
was not sitting always stood sentry. "When its turn came to relieve 
its mate it would walk pretty deliberately across the first part of 
the open, where it was more or less screened by a fringe of trees ; 
and then, having reached a point that was commanded from a long 
way off, it would suddenly lower its head, and run as fast as a red- 
leg to the nest. "When it was about a yard away the sitting-bird 
would slip off, and, staying for no greetings, run past, and away to 
the pine -bank. ... It was interesting to notice that the bird always 
rose backwards from the nest, so that its long legs should not dis- 
turb the eggs ; and that the new-comer did not turn the eggs 



284 BEITISH BIBDS 

immediately, but squatted perfectly still for perhaps a minute, aa 
if to make sure it was not disturbed. And after the eggs were 
satisfactorily disposed, and all the coast seemed clear, the bird would 
close its eyes in the hot sunshine, and appear to go to sleep. But 
even then I could scarcely so much as move a finger above the 
ground but instantly it was off its nest and away.' 

It is very delightful to be thus let into the domestic secrets of so 
shy and wary a bird by so close and sympathetic an observer as 
Mr. Trevor-Battye. 

When anxious to avoid being seen the stone-curlew practises the 
device of squatting close on the ground with its neck extended. 
The South American rheas have a similar habit, and it is, perhaps, 
possessed by other large birds that have a more or less protective 
colouring and inhabit the open country. 

The stone-curlew feeds on slugs, worms, and insects, and also 
devours mice and small reptiles. 

The family Glareolidse is represented in works on British birds 
by one species, the collared pratincole (Glareola pratincola), a rare 
straggler to Great Britain from Southern Europe. This bird comes 
between the stone-curlew and the true plovers (family Charadriidse), 
which follow. 

The cream-coloured courser (Cursorius gallicus) is another 
rare straggler to England from Western Asia and North Africa. 

Golden Plover. 

Charadrius pluvialis. 

Upper parts greyish black spotted with gamboge-yellow ; above 
the eye a white line, which continues down the neck to the flanks ; 
under parts black. After the autumnal moult the under parts are 
white, and the upper parts more yellow than in spring. The 
female, in summer, has less black on the breast. Length, eleven 
inches. 

The golden plover has for several centuries been in great esteem 
for the table, its fame in this respect being equal to that of the 
dotterel, woodcock, ruff, and black-tailed godwit. The two last 
named have now ceased to exist in this country as breeding species. 



GOLDEN PLOVER 



285 



The golden plover, although incessantly persecuted by fowlers and 
sportsmen, is still not uncommon ; probably because the great 
majority of the birds that visit the British islands on migration in 
autumn and winter have their breeding-grounds in remote regions 
north of the arctic circle, where there are no human beings to molest 
them. The birds that breed with us are also migratory, and escape 
lestruction by going south in autumn. 




FIG. 97. GOLDEN PLOVER (summer plumage), i natural size. 

The golden plover gets its common name from the rich yellow 
spots that decorate its upper parts. All the species of the genus to 
which it belongs undergo a very remarkable change of plumage 
every year : in winter the whole under parts are pure white ; in 
spring the white changes to intense black, and this nuptial, or 
summer dress, lasts until the autumn moult, when the winter 
white is resumed. With us this species breeds in suitable localities 
throughout the British Islands, but very sparingly in the southern 
half of England. The nest is a slight hollow among heather or short 
grass, sometimes on the bare ground, and is scantily lined with dry 
grass. The eggs, of a yellowish stone-colour, spotted and blotched 
with blackish brown, are four in number, and are handsome, and 
large for the bird. The young when hatched are pretty little 
creatures, orange-yellow and brown in colour. 

The call-note of the golden plover, clear and wild and far- 
reaching, is one of the bird-sounds that have a great charm. In the 



286 BEITISH BIBDS 

pairing season the male emits a different sound, by way of love-song, 
as he rises and flutters in the air above his mate, and reiterates a 
double note so rapidly that it runs into a trill. 

After the breeding season the birds unite in flocks, and leave the 
moors for the lowlands and seashore. 

The Eastern, or lesser golden plover (Charadriusfulvus), a form 
of the British golden plover differing only in its slightly smaller 
size, has been obtained on two or three occasions in this country. 

Grey Plover. 
Squatarola helvetica. 

Fore-crown white, and upper parts mottled blackish brown and 
white; lores, cheeks, throat and neck, and under parts, black 
'Length, twelve inches. After the autumn moult the upper party 
are more greyish, and all the rest white. 

This species so closely resembles the golden plover in size and 
appearance, both in summer and winter, changing, like it, from black 
to white, and from white to black, that it seems strange to find it 
classed in a separate genus. But there is a slight anatomical 
difference in the two birds : the grey plover is provided with a rudi- 
mentary hind toe, while the golden plover has only three toes on 
its foot. The present species does not breed in the British Islands. 
Its summer home is in arctic Siberia. From August, when it begins 
to arrive, until the following spring it is found on our coasts every 
year in small flocks. It is much less common than the golden 
plover, and while with us is almost exclusively a bird of the sea- 
shore. 

The grey plover is considered a poor bird for the table ; but in 
YarrelTs work it is stated that Englishmen have not always been of 
that opinion, that it was formerly esteemed above most birds, and 
that the saying, * a grey plover cannot please him,' was used of a 
person with an excessively fastidious palate. The bird proverbial 
for its delicacy was probably our golden plover, which to this day 
is called grey plovar in Ireland. 



KENTISH PLOVER 287 

Kentish Plover. 
^gialitis cantiana. 

Forehead, stripe above the eye, chin, cheeks, and under parts 
white ; upper part of forehead, a band from the base of the bill 
extending through the eye, and a large spot on each side of the 
breast, black ; head and nape light brownish red ; upper plumage 
ash-brown ; two outer tail-feathers white. Length, six inches and 
three-quarters. The female is without the black on the fore-crown, 
her neck patches are brown instead of black., and her colours 
duller than in the male. 

This species, in appearance a small and pale-coloured ringed 
plover, is a summer visitor to the south-east and east coasts of 
England from Sussex to Yorkshire, and received its name of 
Kentish plover when first described, nearly a century ago, by 
Latham, from specimens obtained at Sandwich. Its sojourn in 
this country is a short one, excepting on the Sussex and Kentish 
coasts, where a few pairs remain to breed; but as a breeding 
species the bird has now been almost extirpated by the egg- 
collector the soulless Philistine who is without any feeling foi 
wild nature, and whose vulgar ambition it is to fill a cabinet with 
the faded shells of eggs which he can label ' British-taken.' 

The Kentish plover has a very extensive distribution in Europe, 
Africa, and Asia. In its habits it resembles the ringed plover, and 
lays its three, and sometimes four, eggs in a slight depression among 
the fine shingle or broken shells. The eggs are of a yellowish stone- 
colour, spotted and scratched with black. 

Ringed Plover. 
^Egialitis hiaticula. 

Forehead, lores, and gorget reaching round the neck black ; a 
band across the forehead, a stripe over each eye, broad collar, and 
lower parts, white ; nape and upper parts hair brown ; outer tail- 
feathers white ; bill, orbits, and feet orange. Length, seven inches 
and three-quarters. In the female the black collar is less well 
defined. 



288 BEITISH BIBDS 

The small ringed plover is a sprightly, prettily marked bird, with 
conspicuous white and black collar, and a melodious voice. His 
modulated alarm-note, somewhat plaintive in character, is familiar 
to most persons who walk by the seashore, for he is a common 
species on our coasts, and has the habit of betraying his presence 
by sounding an alarm when approached ; and if the intruder moves 
quietly, and occasionally pauses in his walk, the little plover will 
not take to flight, but continue running on before him, all the while 
playing on his wild and sorrowful little pipe. In spring the male 
has a fuller, sweeter note, by way of love-call or song, uttered occa- 
sionally on the wing. He is an extremely active and lively bird, 
running rapidly on the sands, and, when the tide is going out, often 
keeping close to the water to pick up the small marine insects and 
crustaceans on which he feeds. He is not, however, exclusively a 
bird of the seashore, but is also found on the margins of rivers and 
lakes, and sometimes breeds at a distance from the sea. As a rule 
the nest is placed on the sandy beach, or fine shingle, above high- 
water mark. The nest is merely a slight depression in the sand, in 
which four pear-shaped eggs are laid, of a pale stone or cream 
colour, marked with small round, blackish brown and grey spots. 
The breeding season begins in May, and as eggs continue to be 
found to the end of July, it is probable that two broods are reared 
in the season. When the young are hatched the parent birds 
manifest the utmost anxiety, and will attempt to lead a man or dog 
from the spot by fluttering as if wounded along the ground. 

The ringed plovers are social hi disposition, and even during the 
breeding season it is common to find them in small parties. In the 
autumn they unite in flocks. 

This species is to be met with in this country throughout the 
year ; but in spring our coasts are visited on migration by a ringed 
plover of a different race, smaller in size. It is with this smaller 
bird that the lesser ringed plover (JEgialitis civronica), a rare 
straggler to England from continental Europe, is sometimes 
confounded. 

Another member of this genus, the North American killdeer 
plover (jEgiaUtis vocifera), has been once or twice obtained in this 
country. 



DOTTEREL 289 

I Dotterel. 
Endromias morinellus. 

Crown dusky black, bordered by a white band extending back- 
wards from the eye round the nape ; upper parts ash-brown, the 
inner secondaries margined with rufous; tail-feathers broadly 
tipped with white, except the middle pair ; throat dull white ; upper 
breast ash-brown ; white gorget or band lower breast, and flanks 
bright chestnut ; belly black ; tail-coverts white. The female is 
larger and brighter than the male. Length, nine inches. 

This is a richly coloured, handsome little plover ; it was familiar 
to our forbears, and is often mentioned by old British and Continental 
writers as a very delicate bird to eat a ' very daintie dish,' as 
Drayton wrote. Much was also said, both in verse 1 and prose, about 
its supposed foolishness, which was proverbial, so that dull and weak- 
minded persons were compared to the dotterel. It was believed 
that when the fowler, on approaching the bird, stretched forth an 
arm, the dotterel responded by stretching out a whig ; that when a 
leg was put forth, the action was immediately copied ; and that the 
bird, being intent on watching and imitating the motions of the 
man, neglected its own safety, and was taken in the net. The origin 
of this notion, which was credited by everyone, ornithologists in- 
cluded, for the space of two or three centuries, is no doubt to be 
found in the fact that the dotterel is less shy and active than most 
plovers, and, like very many other birds, when approached and 
disturbed during repose has the habit of stretching out a whig and 
leg before moving away. 

The dotterels arrive in this country in small flocks, called ' trips,' 
about the beginning of May. From the south-east coast, where 
they first appear, they travel from place to place on their way north. 
Arrived at their breeding-haunts in Westmorland and Scotland, 
they are seen at first frequenting heaths, dry pasture-lands, and 
fallows, but soon retire to the mountains to breed. The nest is a 
slight depression in the short, dense grass on or a little below the 
mountain summit, and several pairs are usually found breeding near 
each other. The eggs are three hi number, in colour yellowish olive, 
spotted and blotched with brownish black. 

In August or early in September the dotterels take their departure 



290 



BRITISH BIRDS 



for the south. It is known that this bird, which was once common 
in this country, has been diminishing iu numbers for many years, 
and that very few pairs, if any, survive in the Lake District. 



Lapwing. 

Vanellus vulgaris. 








Pia. 98 __ LAPWING. natural size. 



Crown and crest greenish black ; sides of neck whitish ; upper 
parts metallic green with purple reflections ; quills black ; tail- 
feathers white with a broad black band ; face, throat, and upper 
breast bluish black ; belly and axillaries white ; tail-coverts fawn- 
colour. Length, twelve inches. 

The lapwing, pewit, or green plover, as he is variously named 
from his manner of flight, note, and colour, is a familiar bird to most 
persons, and undoubtedly the best and most generally known member 
of the order which includes plover, snipe, and their allies. He is 
widely distributed hi the British Islands, and fairly abundant, and, 
furthermore, is a bird it is impossible to overlook, on account of his 
conspicuous colouring, his singular manner of flight and appearance 
on the wing, and his unique voice. A first meeting with the lap- 



LAPWING 291 

wing invariably excites surprise in the beholder. Seen on the ground 
he is a handsome bird ; in plumage and long, curling crest unlike 
any other British species, elegant in form, and graceful and some- 
what stately in his movements. The moment he takes flight, dis- 
playing his curiously shaped, rounded wings, that have a heavy, 
flopping, heron-like motion, he appears like a different creature: 
he looks awkward and strange, like an owl or a goatsucker driven 
out of its hiding-place in the daylight. But no sooner does he begin 
to practise his favourite evolutions in the air than a fresh surprise 
is experienced. Eising to a height of forty or fifty yards, he suddenly 
dashes in a zigzag, downward flight, with a violence and rapidity 
unsurpassed by even the most aerial species in their maddest 
moments, and, turning like lightning when almost touching the 
surface, he rises, to repeat the action again and again. The heavy 
appearance and slow, flopping movement, and the marvellous wing- 
feats, are in strange contrast. 

He is a vociferous bird, and when his breeding-ground is invaded 
he circles high above the intruder, dashing down at intervals, as if to 
intimidate him, and uttering all the while a wailing cry, somewhat 
cat-like in character. His call, heard both by day and night, most 
frequently in the breeding season, is a hollow, bubbling sound, fol- 
lowed by a prolonged and modulated clear note of a peculiar quality, 
not readily describable, except by the epithet ' eerie,' which is some- 
what vague. It is a quality heard chiefly in the voices of nocturnal 
species owls and others. 

The lapwings begin to nest at the end of March on heaths and 
waste lands, and in meadows, pastures, and fallows. As a rule, more 
than one pair, and often several pairs, have their nests near each 
other ; and so gregarious are the birds at all times, that even during 
incubation, and when the young are out, they are to be seen associat- 
ing together when feeding, and when indulging in their sportive 
exercises hi the air. A slight depression in the soil, with a few dried 
grass-stems for lining, serves for nest, and the eggs are four in 
number, olive-green, thickly mottled with black and blackish brown 
spots. False nests are often found near the nest containing eggs, 
and these are said to be formed by the male in turning round and 
round when showing off to his mate. 

The lapwing is common throughout the year, but in autumn, 
when they congregate, often in flocks of many hundreds, and even 
thousands, there is a very general movement ; and no doubt at this 
season a large proportion of the birds that breed with us leave the 



292 BRITISH BIRDS 

country, their places being taken by others from more northern 
regions. Throughout the British Islands it is a fairly common species, 
but it is believed that for many years past the lapwing has been 
decreasing in numbers, chiefly on account of the demand for plovers' 
eggs, and of unrestricted egging. 



Turnstone. 
Strepsilus interpret 




FIG. 99. TURNSTONE, f natural size. 

Head, neck, breast, and shoulders variegated with black and 
white ; upper surface black and chestnut-red ; rump white ; tail- 
feathers and a patch on the coverts dark brown ; under parts 
white ; legs and feet orange. Female : not so bright. Length, 
nine inches. 

The turnstone is very nearly of a size with the song-thrush, 
although its conspicuous black-and-white and curiously marked 
plumage causes it to appear much bigger to the eye. The plumage 
is very handsome, the upper parts being mottled with black and 
red a tortoiseshell colouring which is rare in birds. It is a visitor 
to our coasts after the breeding season, the young birds arriving 
towards the end of July, the adults following in August, after the 
moult. From the east coast of England most of the birds depart 



TURNSTONE 293 

in autumn ; on the south and west coasts many remain all winter. 
The return migration to the breeding-grounds in the arctic regions 
takes place about the middle of May ; but it is believed that a few 
pairs breed annually within the limits of the British Islands, as 
birds have been observed in summer in full nuptial dress. There 
are few birds with so wide a distribution as the turnstone, its range 
extending along the coasts of Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South 
America, Australia, and the Atlantic and Pacific islands. 

The turnstone is a bird of the seashore exclusively, with a par- 
tiality for rocky coasts, and feeds on marine insects and small 
crustaceans, which it picks from the stranded seaweed, and on this 
account it is called ' tangle-picker ' on the Norfolk coast. It also 
turns over the small stones and shells on the sand, to search for 
insects concealed beneath them ; and when the stone is too large 
to be moved by the bill, the breast is used in pushing. Two or 
three birds have been observed to unite in pushing over an object 
too large to be moved by one. 

Oyster-catcher. 
Hsematopus ostralegus. 

Plumage intense black and pure white ; bill orange-yellow . 
irides crimson; legs and feet purplish pink. Length, sixteen 
inches. 

The oyster-catcher, or sea-magpie, is regarded by many persons 
as the most beautiful of our shore-birds. When seen running on 
the sands with a rapid, trotting gait, or standing motionless a pied 
bird with thick, orange-red bill and pink legs, the large head drawn 
in his appearance strikes one as singular rather than beautiful. No 
sooner does he take to flight, exhibiting the sharp -pointed, wonder- 
fully conspicuous, black and white wings, than the beauty is 
revealed. The flight is rapid, and as he wheels round the intruder 
in a wide circle he utters a succession of cries, somewhat like those 
of the golden plover and curlew in character, but shriller and more 
vehement. The oyster-catcher is a resident species, to be met 
with throughout the year in all suitable localities on the coasts of 
Great Britain and Ireland. He is most partial to rocky coasts with 
patches of sand and shingle, his food consisting chiefly of small 
shellfish left exposed on and among the rocks at low water. With 



294 BRITISH BIRDS 

his strong, wedge-shaped bill he strikes the limpets from the rocks 
and scoops out their contents ; and he opens the mussel-shells by 
driving his beak between the closed valves and prising them apart. 
He also devours sea- worms, shrimps, and other crustaceans. 

The nest is placed on the rocks or on rough shingle, a little 
above high-water mark. It is very simple, being nothing more 
than a slight depression in the shingle, with small pebbles and 
fragments of shells for lining. Several false nests are sometimes 
made by the birds near the one containing the eggs. 

Three, or very rarely four, eggs are laid, of a pale stone-colour 
with a yellowish tinge, spotted and streaked with black, blackish 
brown, and dark grey. During incubation the male keeps watch, 
and gives warning of danger to his mate, who quietly leaves the 
nest ; when the spot is approached both birds fly round the intruder, 
frequently alighting on the ground within a few yards of him, 
uttering their shrill, distressed cries the whole time. At all other 
times the oyster-catcher is an excessively shy and wary bird, owing 
to much persecution. 

In autumn and winter oyster-catchers gather in small flocks, 
and the birds that breed on the northern coasts go south to winter, 
their place being taken by migrants from the Continent. 

Red-necked Phalarope. 
Phalaropus hyperboreus. 

Female : head, hind neck, and shoulders ash-grey ; upper parts 
dark grey mixed with rufous; a white bar on the wing; neck 
chestnut; upper breast ash-grey; under parts white; bill black; 
legs and feet greenish. Length, seven inches and three-quarters. 
Male : smaller, and less brightly coloured. 

The phalaropes are small, handsome birds that, like the plovers 
they are related to, perform long annual migrations, breed in 
very high latitudes north of the arctic circle, and have a distinctly 
different summer and winter plumage. But in the form of their 
curiously lobed feet they are like coots, while in their habits they 
are, perhaps, nearest to the moorhen. There are two British 
species, both irregular visitors on migration to this country ; but of 
the red-necked phalarope a few pairs remain to breed annually in 
the Hebrides and Shetlands, consequently this species may be 



RED-NECKED PHALAROPE 



295 



regarded as indigenous. Unfortunately, the British race of this 
bird is now nearly extinct, victims to the ' cupidity of the cabinet,' 
specimens of the bird and its eggs being in great request among 
collectors. 

The red-necked phalarope is equally at home on land or water, 
and picks up its food on the sandy or muddy margins of the marshy 
pools it frequents in summer, and from the surface of the water, as 
it swims rapidly about, sitting high, and with head set back like a 
gull. 

The nest is placed on the ground, among heather or herbage 
and grass, at some distance from the water. The four eggs are 
pale brown in ground-colour, spotted with blackish brown and 
grey. 




FIG. 100 GREY PHALAEOPE. i natural si*e. 



The grey phalarope (Phalaropusfulicarius), irregular in its visits 
like the last species, appears in larger numbers when it does come. 
Its visits to the south and south-east coasts of England occur in 
autumn and winter. Its range in summer is circumpolar, and it has 
been found breeding as far north as latitude 82 30'. The breeding 
plumage is reddish chestnut, the female being brightest in colour. 
In winter, when it arrives in this country, its under parts are pure 
white, and the whole upper parts a delicate pale grey. 



BRITISH BIRDS 



Woodcock. 

Scolopax rusticula. 




Fia. 101. WOODCOCK. natural size. 

Upper plumage reddish brown barred and vermiculated with 
black ; under parts wood-brown with darker brown bars. Length, 
fourteen inches. Sexes alike. 

The woodcock is a large species compared with other snipes, and 
a very handsome bird in its russet-red plumage, prettily pencilled and 
barred with various shades of black and brown and grey ; further- 
more, it is in great esteem for the table, and it is therefore not 
strange that, like the red grouse, it should be a favourite alike with 
the ornithologist, the sportsman, and the lover of delicate fare. 

Nocturnal in its habits, the woodcock spends the daylight hours 
in close concealment in woods and brakes, often under the shelter 
of a thick evergreen bush, and, it is said, sometimes partially cover- 
ing itself with dead leaves. Its red and mottled plumage, which so 
closely assimilates in colour to the fallen leaves among which it 
sits, is its best protection a similar case to that of the nightjar 



WOODCOCK 297 

crouching on the dry, open common. Visible it may be, but not dis- 
tinguishable as a bird amid such surroundings unless the large, 
lustrous black eyes are caught sight of. When flushed during day- 
light its flight is owl-like, and its appearance somewhat singular. 
In the dusk of evening, when seeking its feeding^ground, it flies in a 
curious manner, darting rapidly this way and that through the glades 
and open spaces. It obtains its food by probing deep in the soft, 
damp soil, or in bogs, with its long bill, but how it finds the earth- 
worms and grubs on which it feeds would be hard to say. There is 
no doubt that the end of the beak is an exquisitely delicate organ 
of touch, but it is hard to believe that it is thrust deep into the soil 
merely on the chance of finding something edible. 

The woodcock breeds in suitable localities throughout Great 
Britain and Ireland, but in limited numbers, and not very regularly ; 
but whether the birds that breed with us remain all the year, or 
migrate to more southern latitudes in autumn, is not known. Most, 
if not all, of the birds that winter in our islands are visitors from 
northern Europe. They begin to arrive, chiefly on the east and 
south-east coasts, about the middle of October, travelling by night, 
usually in calm, hazy, or foggy weather, and sometimes arriving in 
immense numbers. As a rule the females arrive first, the later 
flights being composed of males. It is only when migrating that 
woodcock are seen in any number together, and at such times 
their gatherings are probably accidental. On their arrival they 
quickly scatter over the country, and for the rest of the time are 
solitary in their habits. The migrants from the north take their 
departure in March. In this country nesting begins at the end of 
that month, and in the pairing season the male woos his mate with a 
curious and pretty performance, not at all like the wild celestial love- 
antics of his relation, the common snipe. For a time he abandons 
his shy, skulking habits a hermit in love, he comes out morning 
and evening, and for the space of half an hour continues flying to 
and fro, with a singularly slow flight, and with plumage puffed out, 
so that he looks twice his ordinary size. Flying, he emits two pecu- 
liar notes, one deep and hollow, the other sharp and whistling. 
This performance of the woodcock is called * roding ' in East Anglia. 
The nest is a slight hollow, placed among dead ferns and fallen leaves 
in a sheltered situation in a wood. The eggs are four, pale yellowish 
white, the larger end spotted and blotched with ash-grey and brown 
of a reddish yellow tint. 

A little over a century ago it was discovered that the female 



298 BRITISH BIRDS 

woodcock had the habit of removing its young, one at a time, when 
in danger by flying away with them. But it was said that the 
young bird was carried in the bill of its parent, and ornithologists 
declined to believe it, because, as Gilbert White remarked, the long, 
unwieldy beak of the woodcock was unfitted for such a task. The 
matter remained in doubt until about twenty years ago ; and it is 
now known that the bird carries her young with her feet, either 
grasping them in her claws or holding them pressed between her 
thighs. According to some observers, the bird uses her bill to keep 
her young one pressed firmly against her thighs when flying with it. 

Great Snipe. 
Gallinago major. 

Crown black, divided lengthways by a yellowish white band ; a 
streak of the same colour over the eye ; upper parts mottled with 
black and chestnut-brown ; greater wingcoverts tipped with white ; 
under parts whitish, spotted and barred with black. Length, twelve 
inches. 

The great, or solitary snipe, sometimes called the double snipe, 
resembles the common snipe in form and colouring, and in size is 
intermediate between that species and the woodcock. This species, 
described in the B.O.U. official list as a ' straggler,' hardly comes 
within the scope of the present work. But although a straggler, it 
comes regularly, appearing in the eastern and southern counties 
from the middle of August to the middle of October. These visitors 
are young birds, and few in number, and as they do not revisit us in 
spring, it may be assumed that they perish in their winter wander- 
ings the usual fate of stragglers from the migrating route of the 
species, or race. The fact that young birds in very many cases 
migrate in advance of the adults, that they keep to the same lines, 
and often journey vast distances, clearly shows that migration is 
performed instinctively. We may call the principle of action in 
this case crystallised experience, or inherited or historical know- 
ledge, or lapsed intelligence, or by any other pretty name ; but it 
is not ordinary intelligence the guiding faculty that observes, con- 
siders, and profits by experience. And it is possible to believe that 
the young of the great snipe, when visiting Great Britain in the 
autumn, are going back to an ancient route abandoned by the species, 



COMMON SNIPE 299 

perhaps thousands of years ago, on account of physical changes in 
the earth's surface, or of a change hi the system of the bird itself. 

Common Snipe. 
Gallinago caelestis. 

Upper plumage mottled black and chestnut-brown ; flanks 
barred with white and dusky; under parts white. Length, ten 
inches and a half. 

The common snipe, like the woodcock, breeds in limited num- 
bers throughout the British Islands. But the woodcock nests in 
woods, and, owing to the increase of plantations, the bird as a breed- 
ing species has increased with us. Just the contrary has happened 
with the snipe. He is a breeder in marshes, fens, and low, wet 
grounds, and as drainage and cultivation deprive him of suitable 
localities to nest in, he diminishes hi numbers. Most of the birds 
that winter in our islands are migrants from Scandinavia ; they 
come hi October and November, and remain until March. During 
the winter months they are often compelled by changes in the 
weather to shift their feeding-grounds, and intense cold is very fatal 
to them. Their soft, sensitive bills must have a soft soil to probe 
in, and frost cuts off their food-supply. When approached, the 
snipe seeks to avoid observation by crouching close to the earth, 
where its mottled upper plumage fits in well with the colour of the 
boggy or wet ground ; on taking wing it rushes upwards with a 
violent zigzag flight, uttering at the same time a sharp, scraping cry, 
two or three times repeated. Late in March or early in April the 
snipes pair, and it is then that the males begin to practise their curious 
aerial exercises, familiar to anyone who observes wild bird life, and 
about which so much has been said by ornithologists. The perform- 
ance takes place at all hours of the day, but chiefly towards evening, 
the bird rising to an immense height in the air, and precipitating him- 
self downwards with astonishing violence, producing hi his descent 
the peculiar sound variously described as drumming, bleating, 
scythe-whetting, and neighing. From this sound the snipe has 
been named in some districts ' moor-lamb ' and ' heather-bleater.' 
As to how the sound is produced opinions differ still, although the 
question has been discussed for over a century. Probably it is in 
part vocal and partly produced by the whig-feathers. 



300 BRITISH BIRDS 

The Bnipe makes a very slight nest of a few dried grass leaves 
and stalks, placed among rushes or by the side of a tussock of coarse 
grass. Four eggs are laid, yellowish or greenish white, the larger 
end spotted with various shades of brown. The female hatches the 
eggs without assistance from her mate, who continues his play in 
the air at intervals every day until the young are out. Two 
broods are sometimes reared in the season. 

Jack-Snipe. 
Limnocryptes gallinula. 

Upper parts mottled with buft, reddish brown, and black, the 
latter exhibiting green and purple reflections; neck and breast 
spotted ; belly white. Length, eight inches. 

The small jack-snipe is exclusively a winter visitor to this 
country, never remaining to breed. It conies at the end of Septem- 
ber and in October, and is found generally distributed in Great Britain 
and Ireland, but in less numbers than the common snipe. In its 
habits it is more solitary than that species, and sits closer, often 
refusing to rise until almost trodden upon; and when it flies it 
utters no alarm-note. In April it leaves us, after assuming its 
summer plumage, glossed with beautiful colours. In its breeding- 
haunts in northern Europe and beyond the arctic circle the male 
has an aerial performance similar to that of the common snipe, but 
the sound produced by the bird in descending is different, and 
has been compared by Wolley to ' the cantering of a horse over 
a hard, hollow road ; it comes in fours, with a similar cadence and 
a like clear yet hollow sound.' It makes its slight nest on the low 
ground, and lays four eggs, very large for the bird, of a yellowish 
olive colour, spotted and streaked with brown. 

Dunlin. 
Tringa alpina. 

Crown rufous streaked with black ; mantle chestnut variegated 
with black ; rest of upper parts grey ; throat and upper breast grey- 
ish white and striped; lower breast black; belly white. The 
female is the largest, and measures eight inches. The winter pluin- 



DUNLIN 801 

age is chiefly grey on the upper parts; the under parts white 
with a greyish band on the lower breast. 

The dunlin is by far the most abundant sandpiper on our coasts 
during the autumnal and vernal migrations ; a considerable number 







FIG. 102. DUNLIN (summer plumage). natural size. 

of birds remain throughout the winter, and non-breeders or imma- 
ture birds are to be met with in summer on the sandbanks and mud- 
,flats. The dunlin also breeds in this country, on moors and fells, 
in the wilder portions of England, Wales, and Scotland, and, in 
smaller numbers, in Ireland. In autumn they often congregate in 
such large numbers that a cloud of dunlins is on many parts of 
the coast as familiar a sight as is a cloud of starlings in more 
inland districts. The well-known and esteemed writer known as 
1 A Son of the Marshes ' thus vividly describes the variable appear- 
ance of a vast flock of these birds on the wing : ' In the distance 
something is coming up ... that looks like the smoke from the 
funnel of a steamer ; it waves and streams as smoke will do in a 
rush of wind. Now the smoke has vanished. Again it shows 
thick, as at first, and then it breaks up in patches. Presently the 
dark cloud becomes a light one a great flash of silver. It consists 
of dunlins coming up the wind at full speed. We can hear the rush 
of the thousands of wings, and their soft chatter, some time before 



802 BRITISH BIRDS 

they reach us. Now they are here ; with a humming roar they 
pass below us up the creek ; shoot up, showing black and white as 
they turn ; dive down into the creek again ; pass us, and take a 
sweep over the snow, where they are invisible, for their white under 
plumage, caused by the turn, is in the light. Another turn, and the 
dark cloud is passing over the snow and into the creek. One turn 
more, and we see the cloud of dunlins drop below us on the slub a 
vast host of living silver dots moving rapidly over the dark brown 
mud and grey ooze. As they throw their wings up, as they flirt 
up from one spot to another, all busy chattering, and dibbling, now 
here, now there for we can see all their actions, so close are they 
to us I thought that it was one of the most interesting sights I 
had been privileged to witness.' 

At the end of April the great body of dunlins forsake our coasts, 
going north to breed ; those that remain to breed hi the British 
Islands withdraw to the loneliest moors and fells, the summer 
haunts of the curlew and golden plover. On this account the dun- 
lins are called ' plovers' pages ' in some districts. 

The language of the dunlin differs from that of most of the sand- 
pipers, being hoarse and somewhat grating ; but in spring, on the 
moors, the male has an agreeable trilling love-call, uttered in the 
air, or as the bird descends to earth with set, motionless wings and 
expanded tail. 

A slight nest is made on the ground among the heather, and 
four eggs are laid, greenish white, spotted and blotched with reddish 
brown. 

The great difference in the summer and winter plumage of the 
dunlin caused it to be regarded formerly, by most persons, as two 
distinct species : in the chestnut-and-black plumage it was the dun- 
lin ; in white-and-grey, the purre. Other local names for this 
species are stint, ox-bird, and sea-snipe. 

Little Stint. 
Tringa minuta. 

Upper parts variegated with rufous and black ; throat and upper 
breast tinged with rufous and speckled with dark brown ; under 
parts white ; bill and feet black. Length, six inches. In winter 
the upper parts are ashy brown, and there is no rufous on the 
throat. 



LITTLE STINT 803 

This diminutive sandpiper, no larger than a house -sparrow, and 
in appearance a miniature dunlin, is the least of its order in the 
British Islands. It comes to us only during the autumn and spring 
migrations, but in small numbers, as the British coasts lie a little 
outside of its main lines of travel. It makes its appearance in 
August, chiefly on the east side of Great Britain, and is gone by 
October ; in May it reappears, to stay till June, when it resumes its 
journey northwards. Its known breeding-places are in Northern 
Norway and Siberia, north of the arctic circle. The eggs are four 
in number, of the same length as those of the song-thrush, in colour 
and markings like dunlins' eggs. The note of this species is described 
in Yarrell as a ' whispering, warbling trill, very different from the 
louder call of the dunlin ; . . . and the call of a flock is something 
like the confused chirping of grasshoppers or crickets.' 

Temminck's stint (Tringa temminclvi) is a visitor on migration 
to the coasts of Great Britain, but is less regular, and appears in 
smaller numbers than the little stint, which it resembles in size and 
colour. 

Curlew-Sandpiper. 
Tringa subarquata. 

Head, neck, and mantle chestnut, streaked and barred with 
black and grey; upper tail-coverts white tinged with buff and 
barred with black ; quills and tail-feathers ash-grey ; under parts 
chestnut-red, slightly barred with brown and grey on the belly and 
flanks. Length, eight inches. In winter the upper parts are ash- 
brown, mottled with darker and paler brown ; breast paler ; under 
parts and upper tail-coverts white. 

This species derives its name from the form of the bill, which is 
curved downwards, as in the curlew ; pigmy curlew is one of its 
common names. It is an annual visitor on migration to this coun- 
try, on the east side chiefly, and occasionally penetrates to inland 
waters. It associates with dunlins on the sand and mud flats, and 
resembles that species in its feeding habits, but when flying may be 
easily distinguished by its conspicuous white tail-coverts. On its 
return from its breeding-grounds it remains on our coasts from 
August to October. From its winter haunts in the south it begins 
to arrive at the end of March, the migration continuing until June. 



304 BBITISH BIRDS 

At this season the birds are in their full summer dress, which resem- 
bles that of the knot. The bird is, Seebohm writes, ' a miniature 
knot with a long, decurved bill.' Its breeding-grounds have not yet 
been discovered. 

Purple Sandpiper. 
Tringa striata. 

Head and neck dusky brown tinged with grey; upper parts 
nearly black, with purple reflections ; the feathers edged with ash ; 
throat, neck, and breast greyish ; below, white ; legs and feet ochre- 
yellow. Length, eight and a quarter inches. In winter the upper 
parts are sooty and the breast dark ash-brown, with faint lines and 
mottlings. 

The purple sandpiper is an inhabitant of the British coasts in 
autumn and winter, and is occasionally seen associating with dunlins 
on the sand and mud flats, and may readily be distinguished by its 
darker colour and its lumpier figure, caused by the thickness of its 
winter plumage. But its favourite haunts are rocky shores; where 
it feeds among the stranded seaweed on marine insects, small 
shrimps, and other crustaceans. It is, in fact, a sandpiper with the 
feeding habits of the turnstone. It is known to breed on the Faroes, 
where it nests on the fells and mountains and lays four eggs, 
pale green or olive, blotched with reddish brown, with purplish 
under-markings. Its eggs have never been found within the British 
Islands, but it is probable that a few pairs breed annually on some 
of the islands and on the mainland of Scotland. In its summer 
haunts in the arctic regions it is said to be the most abundant sand- 
piper. With us it is not a common species, and is seen in small 
flocks of half a dozen to a dozen birds. 

Knot. 
Tringa canutus. 

Crown and neck reddish brown with darker streaks ; mantle 
blackish ; the feathers spotted with chestnut and margined with 
white ; tail-coverts white barred with black ; cheeks, throat, and 
breast chestnut. Length, ten inches. In winter the upper parts 
are ash-grey and the under parts white flecked with grey. 



KNOT 



805 



This richly coloured and pretty sandpiper with a strange name 
is one of two species in this order of birds of which the eggs are 
not known to ornithologists, or do not exist in collections. It is a 
regular visitor to the British coasts on migration in August, but 
many birds remain in this country until the following May. In 
some seasons they are very abundant, especially on the north-east 
coast of England; and in former times they were esteemed a 




Fio. 103 KNOT. natural size. 

great delicacy, and were netted in large numbers, to be fattened, 
like dotterels and ruffs and reeves, on bread-and-milk for the 
table. According to Camden ('Britannia,' 1607), the bird was 
named after King Canute on account of his excessive fondness for 
its flesh. Drayton, adopting this explanation of the name, wrote in 
his * Polyolbion ' : 

The Knot that called was Canutus Bird of old, 

Of that great King of Danes, his name that still doth hold, . 

His apetite to please, that farre and neare was sought, 

For him (as some have sayd) from Denmark, hither brought. 

It is possible that the Danish king introduced the taste for the 
knot, which lasted down to the end of the seventeenth century. 



306 BEITISH BIBDS 

As long ago as 1820 the knot was found breeding in the Melville 
Islands (lat. 80), and later, at various times, in other arctic localities, 
but in no case were the eggs preserved. During the pairing-time 
the birds toy with each other in the air, the male uttering a sweet, 
fluting whistle. On our coasts they are very gregarious, feeding on 
the extensive mud-flats in large flocks. It has been observed that 
the young birds that come in advance of the adults in August are 
strangely tame in disposition. In May, when the return migration 
to their arctic breeding-grounds takes place, the birds that arrive OD 
our shores from the south have their rich nuptial colours fully 
developed. 

Ruff and Reeve. 

Machetes pugnax. 



,;* 
& 
It 






Fio. 104 BUFF AND REEVE. | natural size. 

The male in spring dress has the face covered with yellowish 
caruncles ; a tuft of long feathers on each side of the head ; throat 
furnished with a shield -like ruff of feathers; general plumage 
mottled with ash, black, brown, yellowish, and white, the orna- 
mental feathers being differently coloured in almost every indi- 
vidual. In his winter plumage the male has the face feathered, and 
is without the ruff and ear-like tufts; under parts pale buff. 
Length, twelve inches. The female, or reeve, is a third smaller 



RUFF AND REEVE 807 

than the male, and in colour resembles the male in his winter 
dress. 

If by chance the reader has seen in some museum or collection 
a group of ruffs in full breeding-plumage, displaying their immense, 
shield-like ruffs of many colours, their beauty, singularity, and 
wonderful variety must have astonished him. The curious feather 
ornament is similar in form in all the birds, but the colour varies 
infinitely, and it is hard to find two birds exactly alike. In some 
individuals it is entirely white, in others intense purple-black, and 
between these two extremes numberless varieties are found buffs, 
reds, chestnuts, browns of many shades, and mottled black or 
brown and white, often beautifully streaked, or barred, or spotted, 
or delicately vermiculated. But, alas 1 these dead, stuffed birds, 
standing immovable by means of wire frames a burlesque on the 
wonderful living creatures are the only ruffs he is ever likely to 
see, since this bird, as a breeding species, has now been extirpated 
in England. On migration in autumn and spring it still visits 
our coasts, but in small numbers, and probably not very regularly. 
These visitors, or stragglers, are without the wonderful feather 
ornaments, which are nuptial, and assumed about the middle of 
May, to be worn only for about six weeks. 

The ruff is polygamous ; and in spring the birds have the habit 
of meeting on some small dry spot, or hillock, in a marsh to show 
off and fight for the possession of the females, or reeves. When 
engaging in combat the birds stand face to face, like fighting-cocks, 
their great feather shields erected, and thrust at each other with 
their long beaks. These combats usually take place early in the 
morning ; and formerly, when the birds were abundant, the marsh- 
men made it their business to find the hillocks used by the birds, 
and set horsehair nooses on them. The birds taken were fattened 
for the market, and it was owing to this system of persecution 
during the breeding season that the ruffs were reduced to a mere 
remnant ; and the remnant has since been destroyed by collectors. 
In Lincolnshire the ruffs and reeves finally ceased to breed in 
1882 ; in Norfolk the last few pairs of the once numerous British 
race lingered on until within the last three or four years. 



808 



BRITISH BIRDS 



Sanderling. 

Calidris arenaria. 




Fia. 105 SANDEBLINQ (winter plumage). $ natural size. 

Feathers of the upper parts with dark brown centres, edged or 
spotted with rufous and tipped with grey ; base of inner primaries 
and edge of greater wing-coverts white, and outer feathers of tail- 
coverts also white; face, neck, and upper breast pale chestnut 
spotted with dark brown ; under parts white ; bill black ; legs 
and feet dark olive. Length, eight inches. In winter the upper 
plumage is ash-grey and the whole under parts white. 

The sanderling is the sole member of its genus, and differs from 
other sandpipers in having no hind toe. It arrives on our coasts 
in August, young and old birds coming together. During the 
autumn months it is found in small flocks, associating with 
dunlins and other species on the seashore, and it is also a visitor to 
the margins of inland waters. A few birds remain through the 
winter. In April the migrants reappear, and remain until May or 
June before going north to their breeding-grounds. The sanderling 



8ANDEBLINQ 809 

is circunipolar in its distribution, and breeds farther north than 
most of the arctic species. The eggs are greenish buff in ground- 
colour, spotted with various shades of brown, and have been 
described as ' miniature curlews' eggs of a pale colour.' After the 
young have been reared the birds travel south along the shores of 
Europe, Asia, Africa, and America. On the Pacific coast of America 
their migration extends from the arctic regions to Patagonia, a 
journey of nearly eight thousand miles. 

Common Sandpiper. 

Tringoides hypoleucus. 

Upper parts ash-brown glossed with olive ; chin white ; sides 
of the neck and breast pale ash with dusky streaks ; under parts 
and tips of outer tail-feathers white. Length, eight inches. 

The common sandpiper, known also as the summer snipe, is a 
summer visitor, to be met with from April until the end of 
September in suitable places throughout the British Islands. He 
is an exceeding lively and restless little bird, running nimbly or 
flitting along the margin of the water ; when standing, perpetually 
bobbing his head and jerking his tail, on which account he is named 
' fidler ' in some districts ; solitary in habit, or living with his mate 
only, choosing for a home the most secluded spots by streams and 
meres. In the southern half of England, where the localities that 
best suit him are fewest, he is very thinly diffused ; in Scotland, on 
the other hand, he is most abundant. Seebohm writes of this 
sandpiper : ' It is found in the same localities as those frequented 
by the dipper. High up among the mountains its melodious cry 
may be heard from the shingly margin of the stream, or the bird 
may not unfrequently be seen perched on a rock surrounded by 
water. Even here the sandpiper shows a partiality for certain 
haunts. The dipper loves their wildest mood, and the more they 
roll and toss over the rocky boulders, the more he seems at home ; 
but the sandpiper prefers their slow-running reaches and sandy, 
driftwood-covered islets, where the shingly and oozy rush-grown 
banks afford it the haunt it needs.' 

The slight nest of moss and dried leaves is placed among coarse 
grass or rushes, or in a hole or sheltered hollow in a f bank near a 
stream. Four pear-shaped eggs are laid, very large for the bird, 



810 BRITISH BIBDS 

reddish white in ground-colour, spotted and speckled with dusky 
brown. 

The sandpiper utters on the wing a clear musical note, thrice 
repeated ; and in the pairing season the male has a trilling note, or 
song, emitted while hovering in the air. Both old and young birds 
are able to swim with ease, and, to escape danger, dive as readily 
as a moorhen or water-rail. 

Green Sandpiper. 
Helodromus ochropus. 

Upper parts olive-brown glossed with green and spotted with 
white and dusky ; under parts white ; tail white, the central 
feathers barred with black. Length, nine and a quarter inches. 

The green sandpiper, like many other members of its family, is 
a visitor to the British Islands after the breeding season. This 
species differs from others in coming earlier and departing later. 
Half a century ago it was observed in Norfolk that the green sand- 
piper was to be met with during nearly every month in the year. 
The discovery was made later that it differs from other sandpipers 
in breeding in trees, in old nests of other birds, in squirrels' dreys, 
and on mossy trunks and branches. On account of this singular 
habit its nest is rarely found ; but that it has bred, and does breed, 
in this country scarcely admits of a doubt. 

In continental Europe it is known to breed hi Scandinavia, 
North and Central Russia, and North Germany. The eggs are four 
in number, pale greyish green in ground-colour, with small purple- 
brown spots and markings. 

The green sandpiper frequents inland watercourses and swamps 
in wooded districts, and is excessively shy and wary in its habits ; 
it flies rapidly, and utters when on the wing its shrill, piping note, 
thrice repeated. 

Redshank. 
Totanus calidris. 

Summer plumage : upper parts pale brown closely streaked and 
barred with umber ; secondaries nearly white ; rump white, with 
a few dusky flecks ; tail-feathers white barred with blackish ; under 



EEDSHANK 311 

parts white, streaked on the neck and breast with umber ; legs and 
feet orange-red. Winter plumage : upper parts ash-colour ; rump 
and under parts white, sparsely streaked and spotted with grey on 
the neck and breast. The female is slightly larger than the male. 
Length, eleven inches. 

The redshank, although not so numerous as formerly, is still a 
fairly common bird of the tidal flats and saltings on the east coast 
of England, and, in smaller numbers, in all suitable localities in 
Great Britain and Ireland. It is resident throughout the year, but 
is most plentiful in autumn and winter, at which time its numbers 
are increased by the arrival of migrants from northern Europe. Its 
food consists of marine worms, insects, and small crustaceans, and 
when its feeding-grounds are covered at flood-tide, it may be seen in 
close flocks on the small, dry areas, waiting for the water to subside. 
When thus congregated the birds are very loquacious, keeping up a 
perpetual confused sound of many voices, which has been compared 
to the chirruping concert of a flock of house-sparrows before settling 
down to roost of an evening. When the tide goes out the flocks 
break up, and the birds scatter in all directions to feed. The red- 
shank begins to breed about the end of May, in fens and inland 
marshes, and on the saltings, out of reach of the tide. 

The nest is a slight depression in the ground, with a few dried 
bents and grass-blades for lining, or with no lining at all, and is in 
some cases quite exposed ; but it is more often placed among coarse 
grass, or in the centre of a tussock, which conceals it from view. 
Four eggs are laid, of a yellowish grey ground-colour, blotched and 
spotted with purplish brown. When its breeding-haunts are ap- 
proached the bird displays the greatest excitement, and flies circling 
about high above the intruder's head ; and at such times a peculiar 
manner of flight, common to all the species of the genus Totanus, 
becomes very marked. The flight is slow and somewhat wavering, 
with an occasional downward stroke of the wings, which are much 
depressed, as of a duck about to drop on to the water. While flying in 
this way it clamours loudly, making the marsh ring with its shrill, 
piercing pipe, and at times dashes down close to the intruder's head, 
as if to intimidate him ; and if there should be young, or eggs about 
to hatch, it drops on to the ground, and flutters along the surface like 
a wounded bird, in order to draw the danger away. Most birds in 
the order which includes the sandpipers, snipes, and plovers, make 
use of this device when their young are in danger. 



812 



BRITISH BIRDS 



At all times the redshank is a vigilant and clamorous bird, and 
as the meaning of its ringing alarm-note is understood by all waders 
and waterfowl, it is heartily detested by the gunners on the sea- 
coast. 

Greenshank. 

Tetanus canescens. 




s \ I****,' 



FIG. 106. GREENSHANK. natural size. 

Head and neck greyish white streaked with blackish brown ; 
mantle and secondaries nearly black ; rump and tail-feathers white, 
the latter mottled and barred with dusky brown ; under parts white, 
streaked and spotted with ash-brown ; legs and feet olive-green. 
Length, fourteen inches. In the winter plumage the upper parts 
are greyer and the under parts pure white. 

The greenshank is an annual visitor during the spring and autumn 
migrations to the coasts and inland waters of Great Britain and 
Ireland ; but it comes in small numbers. It has long been known 
that a number of pairs remain annually to breed in Scotland, and, 
according to Mr. Harvie-Brown, its breeding-range is extending in 
that country. Macgillivray wrote of this species : ' Its habits are 
very similar to those of the redshank, with which it associates in 
autumn. It is extremely shy and vigilant. . . . Many individuals 



GBEENSHANK 818 

remain during the summer, when they are to be found by the lakes 
in the interior. ... At that season it is easily discovered, for when 
you are, perhaps, more than a quarter of a mile distant, it rises into 
the air with clamorous cries, alarming all the birds in its neighbour- 
hood, flies round the place of its nest, now wheeling off to a distance, 
again advancing towards you, and at intervals alighting by the edge 
of the lake, where it continues its cries, vibrating its body all the 
while.' 

The nest is often placed at some distance from the water. The 
four eggs are of a warm stone -colour, spotted with brown and 
blotched with purplish grey. 

Whimbrel. 
Numenius phaeopus. 

Crown dark brown, with broad pale streak down the middle ; 
upper parts like the curlew, but darker; axillaries white barred 
with brown. Length of female, eighteen inches. 

If it were our belief that the happiness of birds consisted in the 
degree of interest they, as species, excite in us, it could be said that 
the whimbrel suffers from his resemblance to the curlew. He is in 
form and colouring a lesser curlew with a less strongly marked 
individuality; * half -curie w ' and 'jack- curlew,' his two vernacular 
names, really imply that he is only half as attractive as the bigger 
bird. With us he is best known as an autumn and spring visitor, 
breeding only in the Orkney and Shetland Islands. The migration 
eastwards begins at the end of July, and the birds continue to pass 
until September, flying rapidly and at a great height. Of the flocks 
that alight to rest and feed on our coasts, a few birds remain through 
the winter. The return migration begins in April, but the greatest 
number of the migrants appear on our coasts about the beginning 
of May. On account of their punctuality, the whimbrel is known 
in some districts as the ' May bird.' In language and habits they 
resemble curlews, but have shriller voices, a more rapid flight, are 
not so excessively shy, and do not confine themselves so exclusively 
to the sand-flats when feeding. Grass-grown saltings, low meadows, 
and pasture -lands in the neighbourhood of the sea are visited by 
them. The nest is placed on moors and heaths not far removed 
from the shore. A slight hollow among the heather or coarse 



814 BEITISH BIEDS 

grass is lined with dead stems and leaves, and four eggs are laid, in 
colour like those of the curlew, but differing hi size. During the 
breeding season the whimbrels are extremely pugnacious, and 
attack the skuas, lesser black-backed gulls, and other egg-stealing 
species, and chase them from their nesting-ground with shrill, 
angry cries. 

Common Curlew. 
Numenius arquata. 

General plumage reddish ash mottled with dusky spots ; belly 
nearly white, with dusky streaks ; rump and tail-coverts white ; 
tail-feathers barred with dark brown. Length of the female, which 
is the larger, twenty-one to twenty-six inches. 

The curlew is the largest of its order in the British Islands ; even 
the large woodcock looks small besides him, and among diminutive 
stints and sandpipers he is a veritable giant. An imperfect ibis in 
figure, hi a pale sandy brown dress with dusky mottlings, he is, 
perhaps, the least handsome of the Limicolse ; in character he is one 
of the most interesting. What marvellously keen senses, what un- 
failing wariness and alertness must this large, inland-breeding species 
possess to keep its hold on existence in so many localities in this 
populous country in spite of incessant persecution 1 Most vigilant 
of birds, he is not vigilant on his own account only. He is the un- 
sleeping sentinel of all the wild creatures that are pursued by man, 
warning them of danger with piercing cries that none fail to under- 
stand. The redshank, greenshank, and many other species, in this 
and other orders, are equally vociferous hi the presence of danger, 
and their warnings are as promptly obeyed by all wild creatures 
that live with or near them ; but a curious feature about the curlew 
is that he appears to take an intelligent interest in the welfare of 
beings not of his own species, and that he is distressed if they fail to 
act on his signal. In Yarrell's ' British Birds ' (4th edit. vol. iii.) 
Howard Saunders gives a striking instance of this characteristic. 
He describes seeing one of these birds, ' after shrieking wildly over 
the head of a sleeping seal, swoop down, and apparently flick with 
its wings the unsuspecting animal, upon which the stalker was just 
raising his rifle.' This, to my mind, is a far more wonderful 
instance of the help-giving instinct in the lower animals than that 
related by Edwards of Banff, hi which a number of terns swooped 



COMMON CURLEW 815 

down upon one of their number which he had wounded and was 
pursuing, and, taking its wings in their beaks, raised it, and bore it 
away out to sea beyond his reach. The case of the curlew reminds 
us rather of the action of the rhinoceros-bird in waking the rhinoceros 
on the appearance of an enemy ; but between curlew and seal there 
is no such thing as commensalism. and no tie, excepting the common 
knowledge that they are living creatures, and must fly for life at the 
approach of man, their deadliest enemy, on account of his superior 
cunning and his power to slay them at long distances. 

During a greater part of the year the curlew is a shore-bird, 
seeking its food on the sand-flats which become covered at high 
water. When the tide overflows the flats the birds go inland, often 
to a distance of several miles from the sea, and wait there until the 
tide turns. They appear to know just when this occurs, however 
far from the shore they may be, and, rising and calling to each 
other, set out on their return, to arrive at the exact time when feed- 
ing may begin. It is during these journeys to and fro between the 
sea and the moors that the curlew looks at his best when, seen at 
a moderate distance, he passes in small flocks, disposed in the form 
of a wedge, or letter V, his sharp-pointed wings and long, ibis-like beak 
clearly outlined against the blue sky. To most lovers of nature and 
wild bird life the voice of the curlew is his principal attraction. He 
is very loquacious, and his ordinary cry of two notes, from which 
he takes his name, is singularly clear, far-reaching, and wild in 
character. His night cries have given rise to some curious and 
gloomy superstitions in Scotland, where the curlew is called * whaup.' 
According to Yarrell, the bird is a ' long-nebbit thing,' from which 
the Highlander prays to be delivered, classing it with ' witches and 
warlocks.' In the same work we read : ' Saxby says that the Shet- 
landers regard with horror the very idea of using so uncanny a bird 
as food ; in fact, a visitor who did so was afterwards alluded to, 
almost in a whisper, as " the man that ate the whaup." ' Long may 
the ' long-nebbit things ' continue to exist, to delight and invigorate 
us with their wild voices 1 

In spring early in April as a rule the curlews begin to forsake 
their feeding-grounds on the sandbanks and go inland to breed ; but 
some unpaired or non-breeding birds remain through the summer 
by the sea. Wild extensive moors are its favourite summer haunts. 
1 Its breeding-range, 1 Seebohm says, ' is similar to that of the red 
grouse and ring-ouzel.' Its nesting-place, as a rule, is on the flat 
and boggy parts of the moor, and the nest is not unfrequently 



316 BRITISH BIRDS 

placed among reeds or rushes. The three or four eggs are olive- 
green, blotched and spotted with dark brown and dusky green. 
The young birds when hatched have short, straight, plover-like 
bills. 

The family Scolopacidse, which comprises the phalaropes, avocet, 
snipes, sandpipers, godwits, the curlew, and whimbrel, numbers 
thirty-four (so-called) British species. Eighteen have been fully 
described, including the ruff, now extinct as a breeder, and fallen 
to the position of a mere straggler in this country. The ruff is one 
of three interesting and handsome species in this family of birds 
which have been extirpated in England fluring the present century. 
Another is the avocet (Recu/rvirostra avocetta), a singular wader, 
conspicuous and beautiful in black and white plumage, with a long 
bill, curved upwards. It bred in large numbers in fens and marshes 
in the eastern countries ; but since about 1825, when it finally 
ceased to visit its old haunts in summer, it has been known only as 
a rare straggler. The third extirpated species is the fine black- 
tailed godwit (Limosa melanivra), which bred annually in Norfolk 
and the neighbouring county until about 1835. It is now a visitor 
on migration, in very small numbers, to the east coast. The bar- 
tailed godwit, which has never bred in the British Islands, also 
appears occasionally in small numbers during migration. It breeds 
in northern Europe. The black-winged stilt, which resembles the 
avocet in its black and white dress, but has longer legs and a 
straight bill, is a rare straggler from southern Europe. Of several 
species of sandpipers that appear as stragglers on our coasts during 
migration, there are two that have some claim to be regarded as 
British species. One is the wood-sandpiper (Totanus glareola), 
which comes nearest to the green sandpiper is size, colour, and 
general appearance. It appears on the east and south coasts in 
autumn, in small flocks composed of young birds. The wood- 
sandpiper is known to have bred on one occasion in this country 
at Prestwich Car, in Northumberland, in 1853. The second species 
is the spotted redshank, a rare and irregular visitor during migra- 
tion, chiefly to the eastern counties. Its winter plumage is ash- 
grey above and white beneath ; in summer it differs from all other 
sandpipers in its dark hue, the general colour being sooty black, 
the upper parts studded with triangular spots of pure white. It 
breeds in northern Europe in wooded situations, and is partial 
to burnt grounds, where its dark plumage assimilates in colour to 



ARCTIC TERN 317 

the charred wood and blackened earth. Like the redshank, it is, 
when breeding, exceedingly vigilant and noisy when approached. 

Eight species, all rare stragglers, remain to be mentioned : the 
broad-billed sandpiper, pectoral sandpiper, Bonaparte's sandpiper, 
American stint, buff-breasted sandpiper, Bartram's sandpiper, red- 
breasted snipe, and Esquimaux curlew. With the exception of the 
first, which breeds in northern Europe and winters in Africa, these 
are all American species, breeding in or near the arctic regions, and 
migrating in autumn to South America, in some cases as far south 
as Patagonia. 

Eoughly speaking, we may say that, of the thirty-four species of 
the snipe family described in most ornithological works as ' British,' 
seventeen or eighteen are breeders in or annual visitants to this 
country; six are occasional visitors two or three of these are 
perhaps, annual visitors, but in very small numbers ; and tho 
remaining ten are all rare stragglers. 



Arctic Tern. 
Sterna macrura. 

Bill blood-red ; legs and feet coral-red ; head and nape black ; 
mantle pearl-grey ; rump and tail white ; under parts paler pearl- 
grey. Length, fourteen and a half inches. 

The tern has been called a sea-swallow, and he is certainly 
swallow-like in his slender figure, sharply forked tail, and aerial 
habits ; but he is built on more graceful lines, with proportionately 
longer wings, and in his white and pearl-grey plumage is the more 
beautiful bird. The blood-red hue of the beak in the arctic tern 
gives that touch of bright colour which adds so much to the beauty 
of a species otherwise wholly black or white ; it intensifies a black 
plumage, as we see in the blackbird and chough, and makes the 
white plumage seem more immaculate in its whiteness. The flight 
of the tern is unlike that of any other bird, whether of the sea or 
land : it is more airy, and suited to the pale, slender, aerial figure ; 
buoyant and slightly wavering, it reminds one a little of the high, 
apparently uncertain, flight of some large-winged butterfly ; and it 
is in perfect harmony, not only with the slimmer form, but with the 
idea of a being whose life is passed amid wind and mist and fluctuat- 



318 BEITISH BIEDS 

ing wave. It is a rare pleasure to watch a number of these terns 
feeding in an inlet or bay, where the spectator can sit or lie on a 
cliff or jutting rock near to and on a level with the birds. They are 
not concerned at his presence, but, intent on their prey, pass and 
re-pass before him so near that their round, brilliant eyes may be 
distinctly seen. The blood-red, dagger-like beak is pointed down- 
wards almost constantly as the bird gazes on the water thirty or 
forty yards below. All at once the buoyant flight is arrested, the bird 
hangs motionless in mid-air, the snow-white, forked tail expanded 
and depressed, the slow-moving, wavering wings rapidly vibrated. 
In such an attitude he reminds you less of a windhover than of the 
humming-bird, when that little feathered fairy is seen hovering 
motionless above the flowers on which its eyes are fixed. Suddenly 
the wings partly close, and the white figure drops plumb down, with 
such force as to send up a shower of foam and spray as it strikes on 
and disappears into the water, to emerge in a moment or two with 
a small fish in its bill. 

The terns, of which there are five breeding- species in the British 
Islands, are all migrants, and come to us in spring. The arctic tern 
ranges farthest north : it is the most common species on the coasts 
of Scotland and its islands ; its most southern breeding-station is at 
the Fames, off the coast of Northumberland. It breeds in com- 
munities sometimes numbering thousands of birds. The nests are 
placed very near each other, often within half a yard, among scanty 
grass and herbage, or on the shingle and sand of the beach, and 
sometimes on the bare rock. Two or three eggs are laid, greatly 
varying in their ground-colour, olive, buff, greyish brown, stone, and 
other tints being found; and the spots and blotches of blackish 
brown and grey may be few or many. The young birds are at first 
covered with a yellowish down with dark brown spots, and are very 
active. When the nesting-ground is entered the birds rise up, and 
hover in a dense cloud above the intruder's head, their united 
powerful screams producing an extraordinary noise, like that of 
the sea on a shingled beach when the withdrawing wave drags back 
the pebbles with shrill and grating sounds. 

In September and October the arctic tern migrates to warmer 
regions. 



COMMON TERN 819 

Common Tern. 
Sterna fluviatilis. 



FIG. 107. COMMON TERN. natural size. 

Bill, legs, and feet orange-red ; entire plumage as in the arctic 
tern, except the lower parts, which are more nearly pure white. 
Length, fourteen and a quarter inches. 

So nearly alike are the arctic and common terns that it is hard, 
well-nigh impossible, in fact, to distinguish them when they are 
observed flying about in company. In size, manner of flight, 
language, and general appearance, they are identical. On a close 
examination the common tern is found to be slightly less slender in 
build, its under parts dull white instead of pale grey, its beak 
tipped with black and coral-red, instead of blood-red. It is doubtless 
owing to their similarity that the two species associate freely 
together at all times, and are often to be found breeding side by side. 
But while the arctic tern is most common in the north, from the 
Shetlands, Orkneys, and Hebrides, to the coast of Northumberland 
on tne one side of the country, and of Lancashire on the other, the 
common tern is common only on the coasts south of these two 
points. The nest is a slight depression, sometimes with a little dry 
grass for lining, placed on the shingle of the beach ; the three eggs 
are yellowish stone, grey, or olive colour, spotted and blotched with 
dark brown and grey. 



320 BRITISH BIRDS 

Roseate Tern. 
Sterna dougalli. 

Bill black, orange-red at the base in the breeding season ; legs 
aad feet red ; head and upper parts the same as in the arctic and 
common terns, except that the mantle is a paler pearl-grey ; lower 
parts white suffused with rose. Length, fifteen inches and a quarter. 

This species differs from the two already described in its slimmer 
body and greater length of tail, and in its shorter and narrower wings 
It also differs in the delicate rose-colour suffusing or tinging the 
white under -plumage ; but this faint exquisite hue is seen only 
when the bird is hi the hand. On the wing, unless very near, it 
appears white and pale grey like the common tern, and only an 
accustomed eye can distinguish it among the others by its slightly 
different shape. It may be more easily recognised by its short, con- 
stantly repeated note, which is more musical than that of the other 
species. Besides this short, excited note, it has the long, somewhat 
guttural, and gull-like cry common to all the terns. It breeds only 
on islands, and Howard Saunders, our best authority on the birds 
of this order, says that it is more * intolerant of interference ' than 
other terns : hence many of its old breeding-stations on the British 
coasts have been successively abandoned during the last half -century 
owing to egg-collecting, and the bird is now becoming so rare that 
its extinction as a British species at no distant date is feared by 
ornithologists. In the north of England, and at various places on 
the coasts of Scotland, a few pairs still breed in company with the 
common and arctic terns. The nest is a slight depression in the 
sand and gravel, and two or three eggs are laid, creamy white or 
buff- colour, blotched and clouded with bluish grey and rich brown. 
As soon as the young have been reared the breeding-ground is aban- 
doned, and the migration southwards begins. 

Little Tern. 
Sterna minuta. 

Bill orange-yellow tipped with black ; legs and feet orange ; 
crown and nape black ; forehead and stripe over the eye white ; 
mantle pearl-grey ; tail and under parts white. Length, eight inches. 





f 








LITTLE TERN 821 

The little, or lesser tern, is a third less than the common species 
in size, measuring only eight inches in length. The colour is nearly 
the same in both birds, except that the under parts in the little 
tern are pure white, and the bill orange instead of coral-red. The 
voice differs somewhat, being thinner and shriller in tone ; otherwise 
the language is the same. The flight is more wavering. This 
species is much less numerous than the arctic and common terns ; 
in its habits it closely resembles them, breeding in communities, 
sometimes in company with the other kinds. When breeding 
alongside of the common tern its nests, as a rule, are placed a little 







FIG. 108. LESSEE TEBN. % natural size. 

apart and nearer to the water. The nest is a slight depression in the 
loose sand and gravel, sometimes with a few bents and fragments 
of dry seaweed for lining ; the eggs are two or three in number, of 
a light stone-colour, spotted with grey and brown. In size and 
colour they closely resemble the eggs of the ringed plover. This 
tern, like the others, hovers screaming overhead when its breed- 
ing-ground is intruded on ; but recovers from its anxiety only too 
quickly, for no sooner has the intruder got a little distance away than 
the bird drops down directly on to its nest. "When the female is 
incubating the male brings food for her, and Mr. Trevor-Battye has 
described in his ' Pictures in Prose ' the pretty way in which the 
birds play with each other before the fish is delivered. * Beturned 
from his quest, the bird with a fish in his bill circles round and round, 
and lower and lower, over his mate, and presently drops down beside 



322 BRITISH BIBDS 

her. Then he begins a series of extraordinary evolutions. With 
head thrown back, wings drooping, and tail cocked straight up, he 
struts no other word expresses it he struts about in front of his 
mate. ... He jumps at his mate, as if daring her to take the fish. 
Then he will fly round for a bit, only to settle again and repeat the 
play. I have seen on several occasions a female " chit," before she 
had settled down on her eggs, get up, fly off, settle on the shingle 
off and on for a considerable time, followed persistently by her fish- 
bearing partner, but always avoiding him, as if coquetting or really 
annoyed. Sooner or later the fish is always relinquished, or, as I 
suspect, taken by the female bird.' 

In Norfolk the little terns are called chits, or chit-perles. 

Sandwich Tern. 
Sterna cantiaca. 

Bill and feet black ; upper part of the head black ; mantle 
pearl- grey ; rump, tail, throat, and under parts white ; the breast 
suffused with rose. Length, sixteen inches. 

This is the largest of the British terns, being as much superior 
as the little tern is inferior in size to the arctic and common species. 
In its manner of flight and language it differs somewhat from the 
others. At a distance the under parts appear to be of a snowy white- 
ness ; in the captive or dead bird the white plumage is seen to be 
suffused with an evanescent delicate pink colour. On the wing the 
Sandwich tern does not look so graceful and beautiful as the smaller 
species : the flight is heavier, straighter, unwavering, the wings 
beating more rapidly. Its scream is shorter, less inflected, and has 
a harsh and even grating sound. 

This tern suffers much from the persecutions of the egg-collector, 
as well as of that base kind of sportsman who is allowed to amuse 
himself in August and September by slaughtering terns. On the 
Fame Islands, which are protected during the breeding season, there 
now exists a considerable colony of Sandwich terns, numbering 
about one thousand pairs, and a few smaller colonies are found on 
the coasts of Scotland and Ireland, and on some of the lakes of 
those countries. On the Fames the birds breed on one of the islands 
on a flat surface overgrown with sea-campion, and here their nests 
are placed so close together that it is difficult at times to walk over 



SANDWICH TERN 823 

the ground without treading on the nests containing eggs or young 
birds. The eggs are two or three in number, and are stone-colour 
with a yellow tinge, thickly spotted with grey or brown. 

Besides the five species described, there are eight terns set down 
in the books as British. Of these, the Caspian tern, gull-billed 
tern, and black tern, are described as ' irregular visitors,' and come 
in small numbers ; 
the whiskered tern, 
white-winged black 
tern, sooty tern, 
Scopoli's sooty tern, 
and noddy, are all 
rare stragglers, the 
last three from the 
tropics. The black 
tern (HydrocheU- 
don nigra) was in 
reality a British bird 
in former times, a 
summer visitor, FHJ. 109. BLACK TERN. 7 natural size, 

breeding hi immense 

numbers in the fens and marshes in some of the eastern counties. It 
bred ' in myriads ' in Norfolk as late as 1818, and, in diminishing 
numbers, down to 1835. Drainage and persecution ' caused the 
destruction of this graceful species. 

Kittiwake. 
Rissa tridactyla. 

Bill greenish yellow ; legs and feet black ; mantle deep grey : 
head, neck, tail, and under parts white. Length, fifteen and a half 
inches. 

The kittiwake takes its pretty name from its usual cry, composed 
of three notes, two quick and short, and one long. It is the smallest 
of the British gulls, excluding the stragglers, and is also one of the 
handsomest and most interesting in its habits. It is more of a sea- 
bird than most gulls, feeding principally on small fish, which 
it captures after the manner of a tern, hovering motionless for a 
few moments, then dashing down on to the water with great force. 



824 BRITISH BIBDS 

It is common round the British Islands throughout the year, but 
probably most of the birds that breed on our coasts migrate to more 
southern regions in winter, their places, meanwhile, being taken by 
visitors from the north. Its breeding-sites, often shared with the 
guillemot and razorbill, are precipitous rocky cliffs fronting the 
sea, the nest being placed on the ledges and wherever a projecting 
rock affords standing-room for a bird of its size. When the colony 
is a numerous one the birds may be seen whitening the face of 
the precipice from within a few feet above high-water mark to 
within a few feet of the top. The nests, often placed so near to- 
gether as to be almost touching, are rather bulky, built of seaweed 
mixed with turf, and lined with dry grass. Two or three, some- 
times four, eggs are laid, varying in ground-colour from greenish 
blue to olive-brown, or buff, or buffish brown, spotted and blotched 
with reddish brown, and under-markings of pale brown and grey. 

"Where suitable sites exist, and the birds are not too much 
molested, the kittiwakes have breeding colonies on the British coasts 
from the Scilly Islands and the Cornish and Devon cliffs right away 
to St. Kilda in the north. The kittiwakes breed later than most 
gulls, unfortunately for them. It has been pointed out again and 
again that the young birds are often hardly able to feed themselves, 
and in many cases are not yet out of their nests, at the end of July, 
which is also the end of the close time for sea-birds. It then be- 
comes lawful for the scoundrels who practise this form of sport to 
slaughter the kittiwakes both the helpless young and the parent 
birds that are engaged in feeding and protecting them. 

Herring-Gull. 

Larus argentatus. 

Bill yellow ; legs and feet flesh-colour ; mantle grey ; head, tail, 
and lower parts white ; outer primaries black. Length, twenty-four 
inches. 

The herring-gull, which derives its name from its habit of follow- 
the shoals of herrings, is common on our coasts throughout the 
year. Like most gulls, it searches the shore at ebb-tide for stranded 
marine animals, dead and alive, and garbage of all kinds. It quarrels 
with ravens and crows over the carcass of a dead sheep, and, like 
the raven, is a plunderer of eggs and young birds from the cliffs. It 



HEBBING-GULL 825 

is often seen at a distance from the sea, roaming over the moors in 
search of prey or carrion ; and it also feeds on insects and, like the 
black-headed gull, sometimes follows the plough to pick tip worms 
and grubs. It nests on precipitous, rocky shores, usually making 
choice of the summit or upper ledges. It also breeds on flat 
islands, sometimes in company with the lesser black-backed gull, 
which it resembles in size and general appearance. It usually 
breeds hi communities, but is not so strictly gregarious as most 
gulls at this season. The nest, which is usually somewhat bulky, is 
composed of seaweed and herbage, and lined with dry grass. Three 
eggs are laid, stone-colour or light olive-brown, spotted and blotched 
with dark umber. 



Lesser Black-backed Gull. 
Larus fuscus. 

Bill, legs, and feet yellow ; summer plumage of the adult white, 
except on the mantle, which varies from slate-grey to black. Length, 
twenty-three inches. 

From its abundance, its large size which is nearly the same as 
that of the herring-gull and its extremely conspicuous black-and- 
white plumage at maturity, the lesser black-back is one of the most 
familiar birds on our coasts. The young differ greatly from the 
adults, having a slate-grey beak, flesh-coloured legs, and a general 
brown plumage. The mature breeding colours, including yellow on 
legs and bill, with a vermilion patch on the lower mandible, are 
not perfect until the fourth year. Judging solely from this fact of 
its slow growth to maturity, we may take it that the lesser black - 
back lives long that its natural term, as in some accipitrine species, 
probably exceeds a century. It is certainly the case that this gull is 
able, not only to keep itself alive, but to keep up its numbers, notwith- 
standing its large size and the dislike with which it is regarded on 
account of its predacious habits. The unf eathered biped is ever anxious 
to keep all the killing and plundering in his own hands. The voice of 
this gull is very powerful and far-reaching, and, when soaring with 
its fellows, occasionally all the birds unite their voices hi a chorus 
of short and long cries, laughter-like in character, yet with something 
solemn, and even desolate, in the sound, as of the sea. It is gre- 
garious and social at all seasons, and breeds in gulleries, where the 



826 3BITISH B1ED8 

nests are placed close together on the level ground. The three eggs 
are of a light stone colour, spotted and blotched with blackish 
brown and grey. The largest and best-known colony on the 
British coasts is at the Fame Islands, and of that colony Seebohm 
writes : ' It is a wonderful sight on approaching an island to see 
the green mass sprinkled all over with large white-looking birds, 
every one standing head to wind, like an innumerable army of white 
weathercocks.' It is also fine to see and hear them, when a person 
walks about among the nests, stooping occasionally to examine eggs 
or handle the yellow, black- spotted chicks : the birds hover in a 
dense cloud over his head, their deep, powerful cries mingling in 
one mighty uproar, and, at short intervals, one or two birds dash 
down out of the bird-cloud as if to strike his head, and, missing it 
by an inch or two, reascend to repeat the action. 



Common Gull. 

Larus canus. 

Bill greenish at the base, yellow at the tip; legs and feet 
greenish yellow ; mantle ash-grey ; first two primaries black, with 
a white patch near the extremity ; the rest black near the end ; 
head, neck, tail, and under parts white. Length, eighteen and a 
half inches. 

The name of this species is somewhat misleading, as it is less 
numerous on most of our coasts, and in estuaries and rivers, than 
the black-headed species, which indeed is often called the common 
gull. When flying about in company, the two species are indis- 
tinguishable in the winter plumage. The common gull has no 
breeding-place south of the Border. In Scotland and its islands 
there are several colonies, and in Ireland a few. In its habits it is 
intermediate between the marine and inland species, and its gulleries 
are placed both on islands near the sea-coast and in lochs at a 
distance from the shore. Like the herring-gull and black-headed 
gull, it follows the plough to pick up worms and grubs, and roams 
over moors, marshes, and pasture-lands in search of insects, small 
vertebrates, and carrion. The nest is bulky, and composed of sea- 
weed, herbage, and dry grass. Three eggs are laid, olive-brown, 
spotted and streaked with blackish. 



GEE AT BLACK-BACKED GULL 



827 



Great Black-backed Gull. 
Larus marinus. 

Bill yellow; legs and feet flesh-colour; plumage as in the 
lesser black-backed gull. Length, thirty inches. 

Turner, who wrote on British birds three centuries ago, in 
describing the great black-backed gull, says that it was called cob ' on 




FIG. 110. GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL. natural size. 



fche Kentish and Essex coast. It is curious to find that it is still 
known by this name in the same localities, where it is now very rare. 
In colour and appearance it closely resembles the lesser black-back, 
but exceeds it in size, and is nearly twice as heavy it is, in fact, 
the largest of the gulls. It is also the rarest species in the British 
Islands ; for although its breeding-sites are not few in Scotland, 
while others exist on the coasts of England, Wales, and Ireland, its 
colonies are very small compared with those of other species, and 
in many cases the breeding-place is occupied by a single pair. Its 



328 MKITISH BIRDS 

habits are similar to those of the herring and lesser black-backed 
gulls; but being so much larger and more powerful, it is more 
injurious to other sea-birds, whose nests it plunders of their eggs or 
young. It is also more oceanic, straying to a great distance from 
land in its search for dead animal matter floating on the waves a 
veritable * vulture of the sea.' Its nest is placed, as a rule, on the 
summit of an inaccessible rock on the coast, or on a small rocky 
island, and is carelessly formed of seaweed and grass. Two or three 
eggs are laid, greyish brown, sometimes tinged with olive, with dark 
brown spots distributed sparingly over the whole surface. 



Black-headed Gull. 
Larus ridibundus. 

Bill and feet red ; head and upper part of the neck blackish 
brown ; mantle grey ; all the rest, white ; the under parts tinged 
with pink. The black on the head is lost in whiter. Length, 
sixteen inches. 

The black-headed gull, if not the most abundant of its genus, is 
without doubt the most generally known, on account of its wide 
diffusion in the country, and of its habit of breeding in inland 
marshes. It remains throughout the year, most of the time frequent- 
ing the flat parts of the sea-coast, estuaries, and tidal rivers, where 
it is seen perpetually roaming up and down in search of the small 
fishes and crustaceans on which it feeds, and any dead animal 
matter cast up by the tide. In its whiter dress it is almost im- 
possible to tell this species from the common gull and kittiwake 
when they are seen together, as in size they are nearly alike, and 
the buoyant, leisurely flight and circling motions in the air are the 
same in all. But very early in spring the distinguishing mark and 
nuptial ornament of a black hood is assumed, after which there 
can be no mistake. And here I may remark that I differ from 
Howard Saunders when he says that, as the hood is not black, the 
bird should be called the brown-headed gull. Vernacular names 
of this kind are descriptive of the creatures as they appear to us 
when seen living hi a state of nature ; and at a distance of twenty 
or thirty yards, which is as close as a flying gull will come to a 
man, the hood certainly appears to be black. 

In March the gulls withdraw to marshes and meres to breed. 



BLACK-HEADED GULL 829 

The breeding-place is usually in the neighbourhood of the sea, 
sometimes in an inland district. Year after year the same spot is 
resorted to, and it is known that some of the gulleries in this country 
have existed for centuries. One of the largest and best known in 
England is at Scoulton Mere, hi Norfolk. Half a century ago 
20,000 birds annually bred at this spot, but the colony has now 
diminished to less than half that number. A favourite site for the 
gullery is an island in a mere or swamp, and the nests are placed 
both on the ground and on clumps of rushes or tussocks of grass. 
Three or four eggs are laid, varying in ground-colour from olive- 
brown to pale green, blue, or salmon, blotched with black and dark 
brown. During the breeding season the birds seek their food over 
the surrounding country in marshes, meadow-lands, and fields that 
are being ploughed. Seebohm says: 'So easily do they adapt 
themselves- to changed circumstances, that they have already 
become used to the steam-plough. It is a very pretty sight to watch 
a party of these little gulls, looking snow-white in the distance 
against the rich brown of the newly turned-up soil, paddling amongst 
the clumsy clods with dainty, red-webbed feet, and continually 
lifting their white wings to balance themselves on the rough ground, 
reminding one of a group of angels by Gustavo DoreV One suspects 
that Dore\ being, like other artists, incapable of imagining the un- 
imaginable, made use of gulls and such like as models for his angels. 
This gull, like most of the Laridse, is a vociferous bird, and his 
notes short and rapid, like excited exclamations, or drawn out, 
guttural in tone, and inflected in various ways often sound like 
laughter ; hence the name of laughing gull, sometimes given to this 
species, and the specific name of ridibundus. To my ear it is like 
the guttural and extravagant laughter of the negro, rather than 
that of the white man. 

Besides the six species described, there are six others, belonging 
to the sub -family Larinee (true gulls), which figure in the books as 
British species. One of these (the second on the list) is perhaps a 
regular visitor. 

Ivory gull (Pagopliila eburnea). A circumpolar species ; occa- 
sionally straggles to the British coasts. 

Glaucous gull (Larua glaucus). Circumpolar hi its range; a 
whiter visitor to the northern parts of the United Kingdom. 

Iceland gull (L. leucopterus). A rare winter visitor (to the 
north) from the arctic regions. 



830 BEITISH BIEDS 

Great black-headed gull (L. ichthyaetus). A single specimen ol 
this southern species was obtained many years ago in this country. 

Little gull (L. minutus). An irregular visitor from continental 
Europe. 

Sabine's gull (Xema sabinii). A rare straggler from North 
America. 

Common or Great Skua. 
Stercorarius catarrhactes. 




FIG. 111. GKEAT SKUA. ^ natural size. 

Upper parts mottled brown ; shafts of the quills and tail-feathers 
white; under parts rufous-brown; bill, legs, and feet black. 
Length, twenty-five inches. 

Of skuas there are but six species, two of which inhabit the 
southern hemisphere, and breed on the confines of the antarctic 
regions. The others belong to the northern half of the globe, and 
range in summer to the arctic regions. These four are all claimed 
as members of the British avifauna, but only two species need be fully 
described in this work. The skuas are gull-like birds, very strong 
on the wing, and swift flyers ; and, like the gulls, they have a variety 
of feeding-habits, and are both the vultures and hawks of the sea. 



COMMON OR GEE AT SKUA 831 

In the skuas there is more of the hawk and not so much of tho 
vulture. Their predatory habits, extreme violence in attack, and 
readiness to take and destroy their feathered fellow- creatures and 
toilers of the deep when the occasion offers, have won them a repu- 
tation among birds similar to that of a pirate among men the 
lawless rover of the sea, who is without compunction, and whose 
hand is against every man. In shape and general appearance the 
skuas are gull-like ; they differ chiefly from the gulls in the form of 
the beak, which is straight for two-thirds of its length, and for the 
rest curved into a hook, as in the raptorial birds ; and in the form 
of the tail, which is cuneiform, with the two centre feathers pro- 
jecting beyond the others. In the gulls the tail-feathers are of 
equal length ; while the terns, at the other end of this order of 
birds, have sharply forked tails like the swallow. 

The great skua, or bonxie, as it is called by the Shetlanders, is 
the largest of the family. Except during the breeding season it is 
a solitary bird, oceanic in its habits, roaming far and wide over the 
waters in quest of food, its visits to land being restricted to rocky 
island 'coasts. Like the marine gulls, it feeds on dead fish found 
stranded or floating on the water, and on dead animal matter of all 
kinds, and also catches fish by pouncing on them as they swim 
near the surface. But it prefers to watch the movements of the other 
fishing-birds, which it follows and associates with to rob them of 
their prey. The herring-gull and lesser black-back may be 
frequently seen pursuing a tern or kittiwake to take from it the fish 
it has just captured ; but these would-be robbers are not very suc- 
cessful the chased tern, or small gull, in most cases proves too 
quick for them. These are like the merest mock chases and playful 
interludes in the day's work compared with the sudden, furious 
onslaught of the bonxie. The swiftest gull or tern cannot escape 
from him ; he can turn as quickly as a swallow, and keep close to 
his victim in all his doublings, until the chased bird in his terror 
disgorges the fish he has just swallowed. The skua stays his flight 
to pick up the falling morsel, and the chase is over. Besides robbing 
the birds of their prey, he is also a bird-killer, making his deadly 
attacks on the sickly or wounded, and on the young in the breeding 
season. 

The great skua breeds in the Shetlands, but the birds have now 
been reduced to a few pairs, chiefly owing to the persecution of 
collectors. Every effort has been made to protect the birds in 
tneir two small colonies on Unst and Foula, but it is scarcely to be 



332 BEITISH BIRDS 

hoped that this insignificant remnant will continue to exist many 
years, when we consider that the childish and contemptible craze 
of eggshell-collecting is very common, and that many collectors do 
not hesitate to steal, or to bribe others to steal for them, the eggs 
they desire to have in their cabinets. 

About April the surviving birds return to their ancestral breed- 
ing-grounds and make their simple nests, composed of a few twigs 
or a little dry grass, in a slight hollow in the ground. The two 
eggs laid vary in ground-colour from pale to dark buffish brown, 
and are spotted with dark brown, with greyish brown underlying 
spots. They resemble the eggs of the herring-gull and lesser black- 
back. 

In the breeding season the skua is a terror to all birds in the 
vicinity of its nest, as it is even more savage and impetuous in the 
defence of its eggs than when seeking its prey. Eavens, sea-eagles, 
dogs, and foxes, are violently attacked and driven off by it. It is 
also very bold towards a human intruder, gliding to and fro close to 
the surface within a few feet of him, and hovering overhead, 
screaming, and occasionally dashing down violently at his head, and 
all but striking it. They do strike sometimes, it is said, and it is 
related by the Shetlanders that birds have impaled themselves on a 
knife held up to ward off an attack, and have met their death in 
other curious ways, when trying to defend their nests. These stories 
are doubtless true, although the birds are less bold now than formerly, 
a long and sad experience having taught them that there is one 
enemy they cannot frighten away. I have often been struck by birds 
engaged hi defending their nests hawks, waders, and perching 
birds and in some cases the striker has stunned himself ; but this 
happened at a distance from Britain, in a region where birds have 
not been persecuted so long, and fear man less. 

It is from its exceedingly violent down-rushing method of attack 
that the great skua derives its specific name of catcvrrhactes. It 
rushes down like a cataract. This is an ancient name for a bird of 
prey, and, hi this case, a singularly fit one. But what shall we say of 
Brisson's hideous and ridiculous invention of Stercorarius as the 
generic name for all the skuas ? 



RICHARDSON'S SKUA 333 

Richardson's Skua. 
Stercorarius crepidatus. 

Crown dusky ; cheek, neck, and under parts white tinged with 
yellow and brown ; rest of the plumage dusky. Length, twenty 

inches. 



This species breeds in the Outer Hebrides, the Orkneys, and the 
Shetlands ; it is also said to be a regular breeder in Sutherlandshire. 
It is a much more numerous species than the great skua, being a 
regular visitor to the coasts of Scotland in the autumn and spring 
migrations. In its preying habit it resembles the bonxie, but, unlike 
that species, is gregarious. It breeds on moors, often at a consider- 
able distance from the sea, and its nests are widely scattered on the 
breeding-ground. A slight hollow in the ground, with a Httle dry 
grass for lining, serves as a receptacle for the eggs. Two eggs are 
laid, and in some cases only one. These vary greatly in shape, 
some being nearly round, others long and pointed. In ground- 
colour they vary from russet-brown to pale olive, and are evenly 
and sparingly spotted with dark brown. 

A curious fact about this species is that there are two forms, 
one light in colour, the other dark, and that these habitually 
interbreed; but the young, instead of being intermediate, are, 
according to Seebohm, light or dark, like one of the parents. 

The pomatorhine skua (8. pomatorhinus) is an autumn and 
spring visitor on migration to the seas in the vicinity of the British 
coasts. In some seasons it occurs in large numbers, but is not very 
regular in its appearance. Buffon's skua (S. parasiticus) is a rare 
and irregular visitor on migration to the British coasts. It breeds 
in the arctic regions, and is circumpolar. 

Stormy PetreL 
Procellaria pelagica. 

Upper parts black, except the tail-coverts, which are white at 
their bases ; edges of the wing-coverts slightly edged with white ; 
under parts sooty black ; bill and feet black. Length, six inches. 

LL 



334 



BRITISH BIRDS 




FIG. 112 STORMY PETREL. natural size. 



The names of stormy petrel and Mother Carey's chicken are as 
familiar to everyone as that of rook, or partridge, or hedge-sparrow ; 

but the little 
bird theybelong 
to is known by 
sight to com- 
paratively few 
persons. It is 
pre - eminently 
an oceanic spe- 
cies, that comes 
to land only to 
breed; its breed- 
ing-places are 
on remote and 
lonely islands 
not easy of ac- 
cess ; and, when 
breeding, the 
bird is noctur- 
nal in habits, 

and it would be possible for anyone to spend many days in the very 
midst of a colony of petrels and not see them, or suspect that they 
were there. 

The name of stormy petrel has been altered in several modern 
ornithological works to that of storm petrel ; and on this subject 
Seebohm makes a delightfully characteristic observation. 'The 
words stormy petrel,' he writes, ' are doubtless a very ungrammatical 
combination, as many other familiar English words are ; but that is 
no reason why they should be altered, although they may have 
offended the ears of Yarrell and his academical friends.' The 
rebuke is the more deserved when we remember that these same 
1 academical friends ' have been quick to ridicule the attempts of 
certain ornithologists to substitute the name of hedge-accentor for 
that of hedge-sparrow the absurdest name of all, but ' consecrated,' 
as they say, by long use, and Shakespeare. The name of ' petrel ' 
comes about in a very curious way. It is the diminutive of Peter, 
given to the bird on account of a habit it has, when gliding along 
just above the surface, of dropping its feet and paddling, producing 
the idea that it is walking on the water. I am not quite sure that 
this is a correct derivation ; Peter (the apostle), it will be remem- 



STORMY PETREL 335 

bered, was not wholly successful in his attempt to walk on the 
waves. Sailors call the petrels ' Mother Carey's chickens ' ; but not, 
as might be imagined from such a name, on account of any tender 
regard or feeling of affection for the birds. Mother Carey is supposed 
to be a kind of ocean witch, a supernatural Mother Shipton, who 
rides the blast, and who has for attendants and harbingers the little 
dark- winged petrels, just as the more amiable Mother Venus had 
her doves. 

The stormy petrel is known to be the smallest bird with webbed 
feet, consequently his smallness is to the ornithologist his chief 
distinction. He is no bigger than a sparrow, and when seen flying 
in the wake of a ship, gliding to and fro close to the surface, his 
small size, sharp-pointed, swallow-like wings, dark plumage, and 
snow-white rump, give him the appearance of the house-martin. 
Like other pelagic birds, the petrel when on the whig is perpetually 
seeking its food, and is seen to drop often on to the surface to pick 
up some floating particle from the water; and yet to this day 
ornithologists do not accurately know what it feeds on. The bird 
is generally excessively fat, and when taken in the hand it ejects a 
small quantity of amber-coloured oil from its mouth. When 
dissected, its stomach is found to contain an oily fluid, and the 
young are fed with the same substance, injected by the parent bird 
into their mouths. Where this oil springs from, and how it comes to 
be floating on the water, is one of the secrets of the sea which this 
bird shares with other members of the petrel family ; but they have 
no tongue to tell it. 

The petrels do not arrive at their breeding-grounds until about 
the middle of June. They have colonies on the Scilly Islands, and 
at various other points on the west coast to St. Kilda, and the Ork- 
neys and Shetlands. A few small colonies are also found on some 
of the islands on the Irish coast. The birds breed in holes in stone 
walls and piles of loose stones, and, in some localities, in old rabbit- 
burrows and holes in banks. A single egg is laid, on a slight bed of 
grass ; it is very large for the bird's size, rough in texture, pure 
white, and in most cases thinly sprinkled with minute reddish brown 
specks. 

The young birds are fed at night, and may then be heard faintly 
clamouring for food after dark. 

The fork-tailed, or Leach's petrel (Procellaria leucorrhoa), is a 
larger bird than the last, being about the same size as the swift. It 



836 



BRITISH BIRDS 



is a much rarer species than the stormy petrel, and has only two 
known breeding-places in the United Kingdom, one at St. Kilda, 
the other on the island of North Rona, off the west coast of Scotland. 
On all other parts of the British coast it is known only as a storm- 
driven straggler. The birds breed in June, in holes which they 
make in the soft peaty soil to a depth of two or three feet, or deeper. 
A slight nest of dry grass is made, and a single egg deposited, pure 
white in colour, with a zone of small reddish spots at the large end. 
During the daytime the birds remain silent in their holes ; in the 
evening they become active and garrulous. 

Wilson's petrel (Oceanites oceanicus), a bird about the size of a 
swift, with a black plumage and white rump, appears occasionally 
as a straggler in the British Islands. Its only known breeding- 
grounds are in the southern hemisphere. 

Manx Shearwater. 

Puffinus anglorum. 




FIG. 113. MANX SHEARWATER. natural size. 

Bill blackish ; legs and feet yellowish flesh-colour ; crown, 
nape, and upper parts sooty black; under parts white; sides of 
neck mottled with greyish brown. Length, fifteen inches. 

The Manx shearwater is the most abundant and best known of 
the four petrels that frequent the British seas. It has several 



MANX SHEARWATER 837 

breeding-stations in the Channel and along the west coast of Great 
Britain, and a few on islands off the coast of Ireland; but its 
principal colonies are on St. Kilda, the sea-bird's paradise. Like 
the stormy petrel, the shearwater is nocturnal in its habits during 
the summer, feeding by night, and remaining concealed in its bur- 
rows during the day. In winter it seeks its food at all hours. It 
has the same habits as the stormy petrel of dropping its feet and 
paddling in the water, while sustained by its motionless, outspread 
wings. Its name of shearwater is derived from its custom of gliding 
along very close to the surface. Seebohm likens it to * a gigantic 
swift ' in appearance as it careers to and fro over the waves when 
the gale is at its height. Except when breeding its whole time is 
spent on the open sea : it is as truly at home on the stormy Atlantic, 
a thousand miles from the nearest land, as is the blackbird in its 
favourite shrubbery or the sedentary owl in its hollow beech-tree. 
But it remains longer at its breeding-grounds than the other species. 
At St. Kilda it begins to arrive as early as February, and remains 
until the end of the summer. It forms a burrow, often of great 
depth, in the peaty soil, and lays a single egg, pure white, and smooth 
in texture. According to Dixon, the birds are very garrulous at 
night, uttering their peculiar notes both when flying and in their 
nesting-holes ; the syllables ' Kitty-coo-roo ' are given by this 
author in imitation of the notes. 

The sooty shearwater (Puffinus griseus) and the greater shear- 
water (P. major) are occasionally met with in autumn and whiter 
on the British coasts. A third species, the dusky shearwater (P. 
obscure), has a place in the list of British birds, two specimens 
having been obtained in the United Kingdom. 

Fulmar. 

Fulmams glacialis. 

Bill yellow ; legs and feet grey ; mantle and tail grey ; quills 
dusky; head, neck, and under parts white. Length, nineteen 
inches. 

The fulmar is the largest of the petrels ; it exceeds the black- 
headed gull and common gull in size, and is a giant by comparison 
with its diminutive relation, the stormy petrel. It is a circumpolar 



338 BRITISH BIRDS 

species, and in winter inhabits the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in the 
northern hemisphere. On the British coasts it is a rare straggler 
in winter, and its only breeding-station in the United Kingdom is 
at St. Kilda. It is said that formerly there were several colonies 
on the west coast of Scotland, but these no longer exist. In its 
manner of flight and general appearance the fulmar is gull-like, and 
may easily be mistaken for a gull. Like other petrels, it lives, 
when not engaged in breeding, on the open sea, and it often follows 
the deep-sea fishing-boats and whalers, to feed on the offal thrown 




FIG. 114. FULMAB. natural size. 



out and portions of blubber floating on the water. Seebohm says 
that ' if a piece of meat be thrown to them, they often seize it 
before it sinks, but instead of diving after it, as a duck or guillemot 
would do, they alight on the surface feet first, and -in the most 
comical way let themselves sink down in the water with uplifted 
wings.' 

The fulmar lays a single white egg in a shallow hole dug in the 
peaty soil. Dixon has the following graphic account of the breed- 
ing-haunts and habits of the fulmar : ' In many places, although 
the cliff is very precipitous, it is covered with grass, sorrel, and 
other plants, and a loose, rich soil. It is in such spots that the ful- 
mar breeds in the greatest numbers. I shall never forget the im- 
posing effect of this noble bird-nursery. . . . When I reached the 
summit the scene was grand : tens of thousands of fulmars were 



FVLMAE 839 

flying silently about in all directions, but never by any chance 
soaring over the land ; they passed backwards and forwards along 
the face of the cliff, and for some considerable distance out to sea, 
whilst the waves, a thousand feet below, were dotted thickly with 
floating birds. The silence of such an animated scene impressed 
me: not a single fulmar uttered a cry. ... No bird flies more 
gracefully than the fulmar : it seems to float in the air without any 
exertion, often passing to and fro for minutes together with no per- 
ceptible movement of its wings. ... It is a remarkably tame bird, 
fluttering along within a few feet of you, its black eye glistening 
sharply against its snow-white dress. ... In some parts of the 
cliffs, where the soil is loose and turf-grown, the ground is almost 
white with sitting fulmars. Every available spot is a fulmar's nest ; 
and as you explore the cliffs, large numbers of birds fly out from all 
directions where they had not previously been noticed. ... It very 
rarely burrows deep enough in the ground to conceal itself whilsi 
incubating, and in the majority of cases only makes a hole large 
enough to half-conceal itself, whilst in a great many instances it is 
content to lay its eggs under some projecting tuft, or even on the 
bare and exposed ledge of a cliff, in a similar place to that so often 
selected by the guillemot. . . . The nests are very slight, and in a 
great number of instances are dispensed with altogether.' 

Of the number of fulmars, the same observer says : * The myriads 
of birds were past all belief : the air was darkened with their num- 
bers ; still the cliffs were white with birds, and I calculated that not 
more than one in ten had risen. The fulmars filled the air like large 
snowflakes, and the hordes of puffins looked like a huge swarm of bees, 
darkening the air as far as we could see. Myriads of birds swept 
round the vessel or filled the air above ; the face of the cliffs seemed 
crumbling away as the living masses swept seaward ; yet, singularly 
enough, little noise was made beyond the humming of countless 
wings. The mighty peaks of these solitary ocean rocks were indis- 
tinctly seen through the surging cloud of birds, that seemed almost 
as if it would descend and overwhelm us.' 1 

Two petrels remain to be noticed : the capped petrel ((Estrelata 
hcesitata) and Bulwer's petrel (Bulweria columbina), one 
straggler having been obtained of the first species, and two of the 
second, on the east coast of England. 

1 Seehohm's British Birdt. 



340 



BEITISH BIEDS 



Great Northern Diver. 

Colymbus glacialis. 




Fia. 115. GREAT NORTHERN DIVER. natural size. 

Bill black ; irides red ; head and neck black, glossed with 
purple on the upper throat, and with green on the lower neck ; two 
throat-bands black barred with white ; mantle black spotted with 
white ; under parts white. Length, thirty-three inches. 

The great northern diver, or loon, is called great because he 
exceeds the other divers in size ; in this sense he is also great in 
relation to birds generally, since he is as big as a goose, and there- 
fore the equal of the few species that are greatest. In form he 
differs widely from the geese. An oceanic bird that escapes from 
its enemies by diving, and is never seen on the wing except when 
migrating, and never on land except when breeding, his form has 
been modified so as to make swimming and diving as easy to him 
as careering through the air is to the swift, and climbing on trees 
to the woodpecker- The beak is straight, conical, and sharp-pointed ; 



GREAT NORTHERN DIVER 841 

the head, neck, and body, grebe-like in form ; and the legs set so far 
back that the bird is almost incapable of progression on land. It is 
very wonderful that a creature that spends so great a part of its time 
on and in the water, without leaving it, should yet retain wing-power 
sufficient to perform long bi-annual migrations. Probably it does 
not take very extended flights ; when found on inland waters during 
migration, it often appears incapable of flight, and if in a small 
stream is easily taken. In its flying powers it appears, with the 
grebes and auks, to occupy a position midway between the ever- 
soaring, aerial gannet and the penguins, that are incapable of flight. 
In their dark rich, variegated upper, and white under, plumage, the 
divers again resemble the grebes. The glossy black back, thickly 
strewn with symmetrical white spots, gives the present species a 
beautiful and somewhat singular appearance. Out at sea it is a 
silent bird silent and shy and solitary with the cormorant-like 
habit of making itself invisible by sinking its body beneath the 
water. In the breeding season it utters cries of a very strange 
character, powerful and uncanny in their effect on the mind, and 
compared by different listeners to screams uttered by tortured 
children, and to shrieks of insane laughter. It is a winter visitor 
to the British Islands, chiefly to the west coasts of Scotland and 
England : but as it has occasionally been met with in summer in 
full nuptial plumage, it is thought by some ornithologists that a few 
pairs may remain to breed in some of the secluded lakes in the west 
of Scotland, the Outer Hebrides, the Orkneys, and Shetlands. It 
has not yet been found breeding anywhere in continental Europe ; 
its known breeding-grounds are in Iceland, and in America, from 
Greenland to Alaska. It breeds in secluded lakes and tarns, at no 
great distance from the sea, and prefers an island to nest on ; but 
where no island exists the nest is placed on the shore close to the 
water. Two eggs are laid, varying in ground-colour from olive- 
brown to russet-brown, spotted somewhat thinly with black. 

The family of divers (Colymbidae) consists of four species, all 
contained in one genus ; and of the four, three are British. In 
habits, as well as in structure, they are so closely related that a very 
brief description of the other two is all that will be necessary. The 
black-throated diver (Colymbus arcticus) is much smaller than the 
great northern diver, its length being twenty-six inches. Bill 
black; irides red; crown and hind head ash-grey; upper parts 
blackish, spotted and barred with white; throat purplish black, 



842 BRITISH BIRDS 

with a half-collar of short white streaks ; sides of neck striped with 
black and white ; under parts white. 

This diver breeds in small numbers on the west coast of Scotland 
and in the Outer Hebrides. To other parts of the country it is an 
accidental visitor. It is less oceanic in its habits than the last 
species described, and goes to a greater distance from the sea to 
breed. Two eggs are laid, similar in colour to those of the great 
northern diver. 

The red-throated diver (Colymbua aeptentrionalis) is the smallest 
of the three species, its length being twenty-three inches. It has 
the head, throat, and sides of the neck mouse-colour; crown spotted 
with black ; neck marked with black and white lines ; on the front 
of the neck a large orange-coloured patch; back dusky brown; 
under parts white. 

This species breeds in the west and north of Scotland, and in 
*ihe Hebrides, Orkneys, and Shetlands. 

Great Crested Grebe. 

Podiceps cristatus. 



1 



Fio. 116 GEEAT CRESTED GREBE, i natural size. 

Crown and crest and ruff dark brown and chestnut ; cheeks 
white ; upper parts dark brown ; secondaries white ; under parts 
silky white. Length, twenty-two inches. 



GEE AT CRESTED GEE BE 843 

The great crested grebe still survives as a British species, although 
it is a large and handsome bird, and, like all those to which such a 
description applies, it has been much persecuted. Among our large 
water-birds there are few more strikingly handsome and stately in 
appearance than this grebe in its full breeding-plumage, when 
viewed as it floats, unalarmed, on the secluded reed-fringed water it 
loves. The swan, in its immaculate white dress, with proudly arched 
neck and plume-like scapulars, when seen * floating double,' is 
to many minds the most perfect type of a beautiful waterfowl ; 
certainly it is the most familiar. The great grebe has a very 
different appearance, with its straight neck, long, boat-shaped body, 
dark upper and silvery under plumage, and its broad ruff and double, 
ear-like crest ; but in some aspects he is not less attractive than 
the white, larger bird, especially when sailing peacefully in close 
proximity to tall, slender reeds, their beauty, and that of the bird, 
enhanced by the ' magic of reflection,' when both seem part of the 
glassy pool, and made for one another. 

Although in sadly diminished numbers, the great crested grebe 
still breeds regularly in many localities in England, especially in the 
eastern counties, and in a few situations in Wales and Ireland. In 
the northern counties of England it is very rare, and does not breed 
in Scotland : it is there a winter migrant from the north of Europe. 

The habits of the grebe when on the water are similar to those 
of the diver. It is adapted to a swimming and diving existence ; feeds 
on fish, frogs, water-beetles, and other small aquatic creatures; 
when alarmed it sinks its body deeper and deeper into the water, 
and when pursued, or in danger, seeks to escape by diving. It 
makes little use of its wings, except when migrating. At most 
times it is a silent bird, but in the breeding season utters a harsh, 
grating cry. 

The grebe makes a large platform nest of aquatic plants, placed 
on the water among the reeds. Four eggs are laid, the shell pale 
blue in colour, but covered with a soft, white, chalky substance. 
Invariably, when leaving the nest the bird covers the eggs with 
moss and weeds, and the usual inference is that this is done to hide 
them from rapacious egg-eating birds ; but Seebohm is of the opinion 
that the eggs are covered to be kept warm, and he says that they 
are covered only after the full complement is laid and incubation 
begun. 



844 



BRITISH BIRDS 



Little Grebe, or Dabchick, 
Tachybaptes fluviatilis. 




Fio. 117. LITTLE GREBE. natural size. 

Head, neck, and upper parts dark brown ; a little white on the 
secondaries; chin black; cheeks, throat, and sides of the neck 
reddish chestnut; under parts greyish white ; flanks dusky brown ; 
bill horn-colour; legs and feet dull green. Length, nine inches 
and a half. 

The little grebe, or dabchick, is less than the teal in size, and 
differs from the great crested grebe in about the same degree as the 
partridge does from the" pheasant. It is the one common and well- 
known species of grebe in this country, being resident in suitable 
localities in all parts of the United Kingdom. In summer it is 
generally diffused, and is to be met with even on small pools and 
streams ; in winter it shifts its ground, resorting to the rivers and 
larger bodies of water, and in very severe weather to the sea-coast. 

It begins to breed at the end of April or early in May, and 
forms a floating nest of aquatic weeds and grasses close to the bank 
or .among the reeds, but in most cases little care is taken to conceal 
the nest. The eggs are three or four to six in number, and are 
white, and rough in texture. Before quitting the nest the incubat- 
ing bird invariably covers the eggs with wet leaves and grass, 



LITTLE GEEBE, OR DABCHICK 845 

drawn in from the edge of the nest. It is hard to believe, with 
Seebohin, that the object of this action is to keep the eggs warm. 
The nest is, in very many cases, conspicuous to the eye, but on the 
slightest alarm the sitting-bird quickly and deftly draws the dead, 
wet materials like a blanket over the eggs, and, slipping off, dives 
silently, to come up at a considerable distance, usually where it 
cannot be seen. The nest then presents the appearance of a mere 
bunch of dead and water- soaked weeds or grass floating on the 
surface. I have examined a good many nests, and am convinced 
that the eggs are covered to hide them from the sight of egg-robbing 
animals, and that only the egg-robber that is neither furred nor 
feathered, and is well acquainted with the habits of the bird, is 
capable of seeing through this pretty deception. 

The dabchick has the curious habit of holding its young under its 
wings and diving from the nest, to take them out of danger. Like 
its neighbour, the moorhen, the little grebe sometimes begins to 
breed a second time, before the young of the first brood are able to 
take proper care of themselves ; and it has been observed in such cases 
that while one of the parents incubated the eggs in the new nest, 
the other has remained in charge of the partly grown young. The 
nest is used by the young birds after they are able to swim and 
dive, and while resting on it their parents bring them food. 

The three remaining species of the grebe family (Podicipidae) 
included in the avifauna of the United Kingdom are the red- 
necked grebe (Podiceps griseigena), a rare winter visitor to the 
British coasts ; the Sclavonian grebe (P. auritus), a not uncommon 
winter visitor to Scotland, Ireland, and the north and east coasts of 
England; and the eared grebe (P. nigrocollis), an irregular visitor, 
usually in spring, to the southern and eastern districts of England. 



Razorbill. 
Alca torda. 

Upper parts greenish black ; deep brown on the throat ; under 
parts white. Length, seventeen inches. 

The black and white razorbill, with curiously shaped massive 
beak, viewed sitting on a rock, its body inclined a little forward, 
may give us some idea of the great auk's appearance. It is less 



846 



BRITISH BIRDS 



than half the size of the vanished bird, but is its nearest living 
representative. Throughout the year the razorbill is not an un- 
common species in the seas that surround the British Islands, but 
is very much less abundant than the common guillemot, which it 
most nearly resembles in its habits. That it will become still 
less common than it is at present is greatly to be feared. For some 
time past it has been decreasing in numbers on all our coasts, 
from what cause is not accurately known. On this subject Howard 
Saunders writes : ' This may partly be owing to severe visitations of 
mortality which have from time to time affected many sea-birds, 
but especially the present species.' Whether killed by an epidemic 
to which they are liable, or starved to death, as some naturalists 
think, it is certain that they perish in large numbers. On the south 
coast I have seen their dead bodies, washed up by the waves during a 
severe gale, lying in hundreds on the beach ; and the same distressing 
spectacle has been witnessed by others at various points on the 
coast. 

The razorbill is a handsome species, with shiny white under- 
plumage, the black upper parts relieved by a stripe of pure white on 
the head and a narrow white bar across the wing. The black, axe- 




FIG. 118. RAZORBILL (winter plumage). ^ natural size. 



like beak is also crossed in its deepest part with a white mark 
in the form of a crescent. Its life is mostly passed in the water, 
where it sits high and floats buoyantly like a duck. It feeds chiefly 
on small fishes, for which it dives, and when pursuing them uses 
the wings as well as feet in propulsion. On the sea the razorbills 



RAZOBBILL 847 

are usually seen in small flocks ; they fly like diving ducks, with 
rapidly-beating wings, in a line, one bird behind the other, and so 
close as to be almost touching. In March they resort to the bold head- 
lands and precipitous rocky cliffs which are their breeding-places. 
They are then seen associating with guillemots and puffins; for, albeit 
these three auks differ in appearance and breeding-habits, they seem 
to be aware of their relationship, and mix together in a friendly way. 
It may, however, be noticed that on a ledge where many guillemots 
and a few razorbills are assembled, as a rule the latter form a little 
group by themselves. This species is somewhat silent, although they 
occasionally utter long cries, somewhat gull-like in character, but 
lower and more guttural. When disturbed they emit a different 
sound, peculiar and human-like in tone, resembling the low moans 
of a person in pain. 

A single egg is laid by the razorbill, and is placed in a cranny, 
sometimes in a hole several feet deep ; occasionally the egg is de- 
posited in a hollow on a rocky ledge, and in such situations razor- 
bills and guillemots are found breeding side by side. The egg 
is large and handsome, the ground-colour white, spotted and blotched 
with different shades of blackish and deep reddish brown, and some- 
times chocolate-colour. Both birds take part in incubating. An 
observer who has studied the habits of this bird says that in most 
cases the young fly down to the sea, usually early in the morning, 
and being once there, do not return to the rocks, as their wings 
are not then strong enough to enable them to mount upwards. 
1 Sometimes,' he writes, ' when the young one is obstinate, the mother 
will take it by the back of the neck, and fly down to the sea. 
(Zoologist, 1871, p. 2427.)' He adds that the parent teaches the 
young bird to dive by taking it by the neck and diving with it. 

The breeding season over, the birds do not return to the rocks 
until the next spring. 

Common Guillemot 
Lomvia troile. 

Head, neck, and upper parts blackish brown ; under parts white. 
Length, eighteen inches. 

The common guillemot is the most abundant of the four species 
of auks which inhabit the British Islands. Less handsome and 



348 BRITISH BIRDS 

striking in appearance than the razorbill, in its habits it is just 
as interesting. It is found in the breeding season on all parts of our 
coasts where extensive rocky cliffs and headlands exist, and it has 
not been driven away by persecution. At some points on the coast, 
as at Bempton Cliffs and Flamborough Head, and at the Fame 
Islands, and other localities farther north, the guillemots are still 
exceedingly numerous ; south of Yorkshire they have greatly 
diminished in numbers, and several of the old breeding-stations have 
been abandoned. 

On the sea their habits are similar to those of the razorbill : they 
swim, dive, and fly in strings in the same manner. In appearance 
the two species differ considerably. The guillemot has a dusky 
brown or mouse-coloured upper plumage, and a straight, sharp beak, 
very different to the massive weapon of the razorbill. 

Early in spring the guillemots begin to gather from the neigh- 
bouring seas at their old breeding- stations on the summits and sides 
of cliffs that face the ocean. Of all birds that breed in communities, 
they are the most social, or, at all events, crowd closest together. 
Where they breed on the side of the cliff, as at Flamborough, they 
may be seen standing in close rows and groups on every ledge or 
jutting rock large enough to afford them a footing. A strange and 
fascinating spectacle is presented when the cliff is looked at from 
below, and the guillemots are seen in thousands, row above row, 
lessening in size by distance until, near the summit of the vast 
precipice, they appear no bigger than dippers ; all standing erect, 
their backs to the dark stone wall, and their shiny, white breasts to 
the sea. It is also strange to see them gathered on the flat, table- 
like tops of the * Pinnacles,' a group of isolated, precipitous rocks 
at the Fames ; for here the space they have is not sufficient to pro- 
perly accommodate the vast number of birds that resort to it. Their 
appearance forcibly reminds the spectator of a human crowd on 
some fete day in a populous city; but the bird-crowd does not 
move or sway : each guillemot keeps its place, for it is standing 
over its own egg, which must be kept warm at any cost. In spite 
of this fixity they are all very alert and lively, turning their beaks 
about this way and that, and, when alarmed, all bobbing and bow- 
ing their heads as if to salute the intruder. Although silent birds 
when on the sea, the guillemots become loquacious at their breeding- 
grounds. They are very excitable, and when two or three neighbours 
quarrel, as they frequently do, or a bird returned from the sea drops 
on to a ledge where others are standing, or when male and female 



COMMON GUILLEMOT 349 

meet again after a separation of a few hours, there is a great deal ol 
noise. They utter a hoarse, long-drawn cry, like the beginning of 
a dog's howl before he has cleared his voice ; also a succession of 
laughter-like notes, and other sounds resembling the cries, guttural 
and clear, of the black-headed gull ; and, sometimes, short, barking 
notes like those of geese and sheldrakes. 

Like most short-winged, heavy-bodied birds, they fly straight to 
their point, rushing violently through the air with rapidly-beating 
wings. It is amusing to watch a bird flying in from the sea, and 
attempting to alight on a ledge of rock already crowded ; one or two 
birds at the spot the new-comer attempts to drop on threaten to 
strike with their beaks. This demonstration prevents him from 
coming down among them ; and, being incapable of gliding off to 
one side to drop on to some other spot, or of suspending himself in 
the air for a few moments, he is compelled to drop down without 
touching the ledge, sweep round, and go straight out to sea again, 
and after flying a distance of three or four hundred yards, or farther, 
to circle round and come back to the ledge a second time. The 
frustrated bird is often seen to fly right away out of sight. 

The single egg of the guillemot is deposited on the naked rock, 
without any nest, often dangerously near the edge. The sitting- 
birds are very careful when leaving the rock to push the eggs from 
under them ; but when suddenly startled, as by the report of a gun 
fired from a ship or boat for the amusement of cockney excursionists, 
the eggs may be thrown off the ledge, and in some instances have 
been seen to fall in a shower down the cliff- side. The guillemot 
lays a handsome pear-shaped egg, very large for the bird. No other 
bird lays eggs so various in colour ; so greatly do they vary that 
two eggs cannot be found quite alike, even among hundreds. The 
ground-colour in different specimens is white, cream, stone-colour, 
pale blue, reddish, and many shades of green, from a strong, bright 
green to olive-green. The egg is spotted and blotched with brown, 
black, and deep red, and grey. The guillemot when incubating does 
not lie on its egg like most birds, but stands with the egg between 
its legs, which are placed very far back, as in all auks, divers, and 
grebes. It is a pretty and amusing sight to watch the guillemot, 
when returning to her egg after a short absence, walk on to it, and 
adjust and readjust it a score of times, using her beak and chin for 
the purpose, before she is satisfied that it is effectually covered. 
Incubation lasts a month, and only one young bird is reared in the 
season ; if the first egg is taken she will lay a second, and sometimes 



350 



BRITISH BIRDS 



In strange contrast to the guttural croaking and barking ciies of 
the adults is the language of the young bird. Its hunger-note is a 
far-reaching, sandpiper-like cry, clear, tremulous, and musical. In 
imitation of this sound the young bird is called a willock ; and it is 
supposed that the name of guillemot, which is of French origin, is 
also derived from the young bird's cry. 



Black Guillemot. 
Uria grylle. 

Plumage sooty black, except a patch on the wing-coverts, which 
is white with a black bar ; bill black ; legs vermilion-red. Length, 
fourteen inches. 

The black guillemot is much less abundant than the last species. 
On the south and east coasts it is extremely rare ; its principal 
breeding-stations are on the west coast of Scotland; and it also 
breeds on the north and west coasts of Ireland. It differs greatly 
from the common guillemot in size, being scarcely more than half 
as large as that species ; also in colouring, the whole plumage, except 
a broad white patch on the wing, being glossy black, the legs and feet 

bright red. It breeds in the 
same situations as the com- 
mon guillemot, but is not 
so gregarious ; and in its 
nesting-habits it resembles 
the razorbill, laying its eggs 
in a hole or cranny in the 
rocks, or beneath a rock on 
the soil. Two eggs are laid, 
in ground-colour white, or 
pale stone, or pale green, 
spotted and blotched with 
brown and grey. The young 
FIG. 119. LITTLE AUK. natural size. are covered with a greyish 

black down, and their first 
plumage- is mottled black and white. 

The black guillemot frequents the seas in the vicinity of Hg 
breeding-station throughout the year. 




BLACK GUILLEMOT 



851 



Brunnich's guillemot (Lomvia 'bruennichi) is a very rare 
straggler from the arctic regions to the northern islands and coasts 
of Scotland. 

The little auk (Margulus alle) is an irregular visitor, sometimes in 
considerable numbers, to the British coasts, especially in the north. 
It is a circumpolar species, and straggles southwards hi whiter, 
but seldom approaches the British Islands, except in very severe 
weather. 

Puffin. 

Fratercula arctica. 

Crown, collar, and tipper 
parts black, all the rest white ; 
bill, bluish at the base, yellow 
in the middle, bright red at the 
tip ; legs and feet orange-red. 
Length, twelve inches. 

Among British birds, 
whether sea or land, the puffin 
is the most singular in appear- 
ance a small auk, compact in 
build, conspicuous in black and 
white plumage, broad collar, 
white, owlish face, and great 
beak, short and adze-shaped, 
but massive as a toucan's. The 

brilliant colours of this beak, too red with orange bars give it a 
curious resemblance to the enormous organ of the tropical bird. One 
may look at the puffin almost daily, as he stands on the rocks, always 
with something of surprise at his strikingly handsome yet grotesque 
appearance. The fanciful idea suggests itself that the bird is a 
masquerader; that the visible, brilliantly coloured beak has been 
artificially made, and put on over the natural beak, just as in the 
case of a human masquerader a large, gaily coloured, artificial 
nose is sometimes placed over the natural organ. And the puffin's 
beak is, in fact, something of a mask, or superimposed ornament ; 
and after the breeding season its surface peels off in horny plates, 
and is shed like the deciduous bark of certain trees. The bird's beak 
in winter is moderate hi size and dull-coloured. 




FIG. 120. PUFFIN. natural size. 



852 BRITISH BIRDS 

The puffin is a spring visitor to our coasts, and after rearing 
their young the birds scatter over the sea and journey southwards. 
The puffins found on the east coasts of England and Scotland dur- 
ing the winter months are probably migrants from more northern 
latitudes. Puffins are found in summer in most localities on our 
coasts where razorbills and guillemots collect ; on the south coast 
they are rare, but increase as we go north, until at St. Kilda they 
are found gathered in incalculable numbers. As a cliff-breeder the 
puffin deposits its egg in a hole or cranny in the rocks like the 
razorbill, but never on an exposed ledge, as the guillemot always, and 
the razorbill sometimes, does. Sometimes they take forcible posses- 
sion of rabbit-burrows among sandhills, driving the owners out; 
but they prefer making their own burrows in a soft peaty soil, such 
as they find at St. Kilda and in many other localities. In March 
or April they return from their wanderings on the sea and begin 
the great business of the year. "Where they are in large numbers 
and make their burrows near each other the soft soil is so under- 
mined by them that it is difficult to walk over the ground without 
breaking through the turf and sinking almost knee-deep in their 
holes at every few steps. When engaged in digging the birds are so 
intent on their work that they may be approached very closely, 
and sometimes even taken with the hand. The burrow is three or 
four feet in length, sometimes more, and at the extremity a single 
egg is laid, oval in form, large for the bird's size, and white, faintly 
spotted and streaked with grey. The young bird is covered with 
black down, and has a comparatively small beak, of a dark colour. 
He is a squat, lumpish creature, owlish in appearance. When fishing 
to supply its young the parent puffin has the curious habit and 
faculty of keeping the small fishes it catches in its beak, where they 
may be seen as the bird swims on the sea, their tails and a portion 
of their bodies protruding at the sides of the beak and mouth. How 
it manages to hold several little fishes in this way and go on diving 
and catching others is a puzzle. On arriving at the burrow the 
fishes are placed on the floor inside, or at the entrance, where the 
young bird sits waiting for its parent, and are then picked up one by 
one and put into the open, hungry mouth. 



INDEX. 



ABERDEVINE, 127 
AcanthylUs caudacuta, 179 
Accentor collaris, 86 



Accipiter nisus, 206 
Acredula caudata, 92 

rosea, 90 
Acrocephalus aquaticus, 82 

palustris, 82 

phragmitis, 80 

streperus, 79 

turd&ides, 82 
Aedon galectodes, 79 
Mgialitis cantiana, 287 

cwrom'ca, 288 

hiaticula, 287 

vocifera, 288 
Alauda arborea, 176 

arvensis, 174 

cristata, 178 
^Zca or<Za, 845 
Alcedo ispida, 188 
Alpine accentor, 86 
American bittern, 226 

goshawk, 216 

hawk-owl, 199 

stint, 817 

wigeon, 288 
Ampelis garrulua, 114 
Anas boscas, 289 
Anser albifrons, 230 

brachyrhynchus, 229 

cinereus, 227 

segetum, 228 
Anthus campestris, 118 

obscurus, 112 
pratensis, 108 



Anthus richardii, 115 

spipoletta, 118 

trivialis, 110 
Aquatic warbler, 82 
Aquila chrysaetus, 204 

clanga, 216 
Archibuteo lagopua, 216 
Arctic tern, 817 
Ardea alba, 226 

bubulcus, 226 

cinerea, 223 

gazetta, 226 
purpurea, 226 

ralMdes, 226 
Ardetta minuta, 226 
4sz'o brachyotus, 197 

oiws, 196 

Astur palumbarius, 218 
Athene noctua, 199 
Avocet, 816 
Auk, little, 851 



BAILLON'S crake, 278 
Barnacle goose, 232 
Barn-owl, 193 
Barred warbler, 70 
woodpecker, 188 
Barrow's golden-eye, 248 
Bar-tailed godwit, 316 
Bartram's sandpiper, 817 
Bean-goose, 228 
Bearded titmouse, 89 
Bee-eater, 190 
Belted kingfisher, 189 
Bernicla brenta, 230 
, 232 



354 



BRITISH BIED8 



Bemicla ruficottis, 22 1 
Bewick's swan, 234 
Big plover, 282 
Bittern, American, 22 d 

common, 224 

little, 226 
Black-bellied dipper, K8 
Black-billed cuckoo, 1 
Blackbird, 47 
Blackcap, 67 

Black crow, 167 

eagle, 204 

grouse, 278 

guillemot, 850 
Black-headed bunting, 154 

gull, 828 
Black kite, 216 

redstart, 69 

scoter, 258 

stork, 226 

swift, 179 
Black-tailed godwit, 816 
Black tern, 823 
Black-throated diver, 841 

thrush, 51 

wheatear, 54 
Black-winged stilt, 816 
Blue rock, 262 
Bluethroat, 59 

Blue titmouse, 97 
Blue-winged teal, 244 
Bonaparte's sandpiper, 817 
Bonxie, 881 
Botaurus lentiginosus, 226 

stellaris, 224 
Brambling, 187 
Brent goose, 230 
Broad-billed sandpiper, 817 
Brown owl, 198 
Briinnich'g guillemot, 851 
Bubo ignavus, 199 
Buff-backed heron, 226 
Buff-breasted sandpiper, 817 
Buffel-headed duck, 246 
Buffon's skua, 838 
Bullfinch, 142 
Bulweria columbina, 889 
Bulwer's petrel, 839 
Bunting, black-headed, 154 

cirl, 150 

corn, 146 

Lapland, 154 

little, 154 

ortolan, 154 

reed, 151 

snow, 152 

yellow, 148 



Bustard, great, 281 
- little, 281 

Macqueen's, 281 
Butcher-bird, 114 
Buteo vulgaris, 202 
Buzzard, 202 

T- honey, 217 

moor, 216 



OACCABIS rufa, 265 
Calcarius lapponica, 154 
Calendrella brachydactyla t 179 
Calidris arenaria, 808 
Capercaillie, 275 
Capped petrel, 889 
Caprimulgus eegyptius, 181 

europaus, 179 

ruficollis, 181 
Carduelis elegans, 126 
Carpodacus erythrinus, 144 
Carrion crow, 166 
Caspian tern, 823 
Certhia familiaris, 124 
Ceryle alcyon, 189 
Chack-bird, 54 
Chaffinch, 184 
Charadrius fulvus, 286 

pluvialis, 284 
Chat, river, 80 

Chaulelasmus streperus, 243 
Chelidon urbica, 121 
Chen albatus, 227 
Chiffchaff, 74 
Chit-perle, 822 

Chough, 157 

Chrysometris spinus, 127 
Churn-owl, 181 



nigra, 226 
Cinclus aquaticus, 86 

melanogaster, 88 
Circus ceruginosus, 216 

cineraceus, 201 

cyaneus, 199 
Cirl bunting, 150 
Clangula albeola, 246 

glaucion, 249 

islandica, 246 
Clod-hopper, 54 
Coal-mouse, 95 
Coal- titmouse, 94 
Coccothraustes vulgaris, 130 
Coccystes glandarius, in:) 
Coccyeus americanus, 193 

erythrophthalmus, 198 
Collared pratincole, 284 



INDEX 



Columba anas, 261 

livia, 261 

palumbus, 259 
Colymbus arcticus, 841 

glacialis, 840 

septentrionalis, 842 
Common bittern, 224 

curlew, 814 

guillemot, 847 

gull, 826 

sandpiper, 809 

scoter, 258 

sheldrake, 235 

skua, 330 

snipe, 299 

tern, 819 
Coot, 280 

Coracius garrula, 190 
Cormorant, 218 

green, 220 
Corn-bunting, 146 
Corncrake, 278 
Cornish chough, 157 
Corvus corax, 172 

comix, 167 

corona, 166 

frugilegus, 168 

monedula, 168 
Gosmonetta histrionica, 246 
Cotile riparia, 122 
Coturnix communis, 269 
Crake, Baillon's, 278 

corn, 278 

spotted, 277 
Crane, 281 

Cream-coloured courser, 284 
Creeper, 124 

Crested lark, 178 

titmouse, 98 
Crex pratensis, 278 
Cricket teal, 248 
Crossbill, 144 
Crow, black, 16? 

carrion, 166 

grey, 167 

hooded, 167 

Royston, 167 
Cuckoo, 190 

black billed, 193 

great spotted, 198 

yellow-billed, 198 
Cuculus canorus, 190 
Curlew, common, 814 

Esquimaux, 817 

stone, 282 
Curlew-sandpiper, 808 
Cursorius galticus, 284 



Cushat, 258 
Cyanecula suecica, 59 
wolfi, 59 
Cygnus bewickii, 234 

immutabilis, 238 

musicus, 284 

olor, 238 
Cypselus apus, 1V8 
melba, 179 



DABCHICK, 844 
Dafila acuta, 238 
Dartford warbler, 70 
Daulias luscinia, 62 
Dendrocopus major, 181 

minor, 183 
Desert wheatear, 64 
Beveling, 179 
Dipper, 86 

black-bellied, 88 
Diver, black-throated, 841 

great northern, 340 

red-throated, 842 
Dotterel, 289 
Dove, ring, 258 

rock, 261 

stock, 261 

turtle, 262 
Double snipe, 298 
Duck, buffel-headed, 2U' 

eider, 251 

harlequin, 246 

long-tailed, 250 

tufted, 246 

white-eyed, 846 

wild, 289 
Dunlin, 800 
Dunnock, 85 

Dusky shearwater, 837 



EAGLE, black, 204 

golden, 204 

spotted, 216 

white-tailed, 205 
Eagle-owl, 199 
Eared grebe, 845 
Eastern plover, 286 
Ectopistes migratorius, i!64 
Egyptian nightjar, 181 

vulture, 216 
Eider duck, 251 
Elano^desfurcatu8, 217 
Emberiza cirlus, 160 

citrinella, 148 

hortulana, 154 



856 



BRITISH BIRDS 



Emberiea melanocephala, 154 

miliaria, 146 

pusilla, 154 

rustica, 154 

schoeniclus, 151 
Endromias morinellus, 289 
Esquimaux curlew, 817 
Erithacus rubecula, 69 
Erne, 205 

European hawk-owl, 199 



FALCO eesalon, 211 
peregrinus, 208 

subbuteo, 210 
Falcon, Greenland, 217 

Iceland, 217 

peregrine, 208 

red-crested, 217 

red-footed, 217 
Fallowchat, 54 
Fieldfare, 46 
Finch, mountain, 187 
Firecrest, 74 
Firetail, 68 
Flycatcher, pied, 118 

spotted, 116 
Fork-tailed petrel, 835 
Fratercula arctica, 851 
French partridge, 265 
Fringilla ccelebs, 184 

montifringilla, 187 
Fulica atra, 280 
Fuligula cristata, 246 

ferina, 248 

marila, 247 

rufina, 246 
Fulmar, 887 

FuVmarus glacialis, 837 
Furze-wren, 70 



GADWELL, 241 
Gallinago ccelestis, 299 
major, 298 
Gallinula chloropus, 279 
Gannet, 221 
Garden warbler, 69 
Garganey, 248 
GarruluA qlandarius, 158 
Gecinus viridis, 184 
Glareola pratincola, 284 
Glaucous gull, 829 
Glead, 207 
Glossy ibis, 226 
Goatsucker, 170 
Goldcrest, 72 



Golden-crested wren, 73 
Golden eagle, 204 
Golden-eye, 249 
Golden oriole, 114 
Golden plover, 284 
Goldfinch, 128 
Goosander, 255 
Goose, barnacle, 282 

bean, 228 

brent, 280 

grey lag, 227 

pink-footed, 229 

solan, 221 

white-fronted, 280 
Goshawk, 216 
Grasshopper warbler, 82 
Great black-backed gull, 827 

black-headed gull, 830 

bustard, 281 

crested grebe, 842 

grey shrike, 116 

northern diver, 840 

reed-warbler, 82 

skua, 880 

snipe, 298 

spotted cuckoo, 193 

spotted woodpecker, 181 

titmouse, 92 

white heron, 226 
Greater shearwater, 887 

whitethroat, 65 
Grebe, eared, 845 

great crested, 842 

little, 844 

red-necked, 845 
Green cormorant, 220 
Greenfinch, 128 
Greenland falcon, 217 

redpole, 140 
Green plover, 290 

sandpiper, 810 
Greenshank, 812 
Green- winged teal, 244 
Green woodpecker, 184 
Grey-backed crow, 187 
Grey crow, 167 

lag-goose, 227 

phalarope, 295 

plover, 286 

wagtail, 105 
Griffon vulture, 216 
Grouse, black, 270 

red, 272 

Grus communis, 281 
Guillemot, black, 350 

Briinnick's, 851 

common, 847 



INDEX 



867 



Gull-billed tern, 823 
Gull, black-headed, 880 

common, 826 

glaucous, 829 

great black-backed, 827 

great black-headed, 830 

herring, 824 

Iceland, 217 

ivory, 829 

laughing, 829 

lesser black-backed, 825 

Sabine's, 880 
Gypsfulvua, 216 
Gyrfalcon, 217 



H&MATOPUB ostralegus, 298 
Half-curlew, 868 
HaliaHtus albitilla, 205 
Harelda gladalis, 250 
Harlequin duck, 246 
Harrier, Montagu's, 201 
Hawfinch, 180 
Hawk-owl, American, 199 

European, 199 
Hawk, sparrow, 206 
Heather-bleater, 299 
Hedge-sparrow, 84 
Helodromus ochropua, 810 
Hen-harrier, 199 
Heniconetta Stelleri, 246 
Heron, 223 

buff-backed. 226 

great white, 226 

night, 228 

purple, 226 

Squacco, 226 
Herring-gull, 824 
Hierofalco candicans, 217 

gyrfalcoy 217 

islandicus, 217 
Hirundo rustioa, 118 
Hobby, 210 

Honey buzzard, 917 
Hooded crow, 167 

merganser, 246 
Hoodie, 167 
Hoopoe, 190 
House-martin, 121 
House-sparrow, 133 
Hydrocnelidon nigra, 828 
liypolaia icterina, 79 



IBIS, glossy, 226 
Iceland falcon, 217 
gull, 829 



Icterine warbler, 73 
Ivory gull, 829 
lynx torquilla, 186 



JACK-CUBLEW, 813 
Jackdaw, 163 
Jack-snipe, 800 
Jay, 158 



KENTISH plover, 287 
Kestrel, 212 

lesser, 217 
Killdeer plover, 288 
King eider, 246 
Kingfisher, 188 

belted, 189 
Kite, 207 

black, 216 
Kittiwake, 828 
Knot, 804 



LAO-GOOSE, grey, 227 
Lagopus mutus, 270 

scoticus. 272 
Landrail, 278 
Lanius collurio, 114 

excubitor, 116 

major, 116 

minor, 116 

pomeranus, 116 
Lapland bunting, 154 
Lapwing, 290 
Lark, crested, 178 

sky, 174 

white- winged, 862 

wood, 176 

Larus argentatus, 824 

canus, 826 
fuscus, 825 

glaitcus, 829 

ichthyaetus, 880 

leucopterus, 829 

marinus, 827 

minutus, 880 

ridibundus, 828 
Laughing gull, 829 
Leach's petrel, 885 

Lesser black-backed gull, 825 

golden plover, 286 

grey shrike, 116 

kestrel, 217 

redpoll, 189 

ringed plover, 288 

spotted woodpecker, Ida 



858 



BEITISH BIEDS 



Lessor tern, 820 

whitethroat, 66 
Ligurinus chloris, 128 
Limnocryptes galliluna, 300 
Limosa melanura, 816 
Linnet, 188 

mountain, 141 
Linota cannabina, 138 

flavirostris, 141 

homemanni, 140 

linaria, 140 

rufescens, 189 
Little auk, 851 

bittern, 226 

bunting, 154 

bustard, 281 

crake, 278 

egret, 226 

grebe, 844 

gull, 830 

owl, 199 

stint, 802 

tern, 820 
Locustella luscinio'ides, 84 

ncevia, 82 
Lomvia bruennichi, 351 

troile, 847 
Long-eared owl, 196 
Long-tailed duck, 250 

titmouse, 90 
Loon, 840 

Loxia b if as data, 145 

curvirostra, 144 

leucoptera, 145 

pittyopsittacus, 145 



MACHETES pugnax, 806 

Macqueen's bustard, 281 

Magpie, 160 

Mallard, 239 

Manx shearwater, 336 

Mareca americana, 238 

penelope, 237 
Margulus alle, 851 
Marsh-harrier, 216 
Marsh-hen, 280 
Marsh-titmouse, 96 
Marsh warbler, 82 
Martin, 121 

house, 121 

sand, 122 
May bird, 818 
Meadow-pipit, 108 
Mealy redpoll, 140 
MelanocorypJia sibirica, 178 
Melizophilus undatus, 70 



Merganser, hooded, 246 

red-breasted, 256 
Mergus albellus, 258 

cucullatus, 246 

merganser, 255 

serrator, 256 
Merlin, 211 
Merops apiaster, 190 
Milvus ictinus, 207 

nigrans, 216 
Missel-thrush, 89 
Montagu's harrier, 201 
Monticola saxatilis, 52 
Moor buzzard, 216 
Moorhen, 279 
Moor-lamb, 299 
Motacilla alba, 103 

flava, 108 

lugubris, 104 

melanope, 105 

rayii, 107 

Mother Carey's chicken, 334 
Mountain-blackbird, 50 
Mountain-finch, 137 
Mountain-linnet, 141 
Musdcapa atricapilla, 118 

grisola, 116 

parva, 118 
Mute swan, 283 



NEEDLE-TAILED swift, 179 
Neophron percnopterus, 216 
Night-churn, 181 
Night heron, 226 
Nightingale, 62 
Nightjar, 179 

Egyptian, 181 
Noddy, 323 
Norfolk plover, 28?, 

North American killdeer- plover, 
Nucifraga caryocatactes, 174 
Numenius arquata, 814 

phceopus, 813 
Nun, 258 
Nutcracker, 174 
Nuthatch, 99 
Nyctala tengmalmi, 199 
Nyctea scandiaca, 199 
Nycticorax griseus, 226 
Nyroca ferruginea, 246 



OCEANITES oceanicus, 336 
(Edemiafusca, 254 
nigra, 258 
perspicillata, 246 



INDEX 



859 



(Edicnemua acolopax, 282 
(Estrelata hcesitata, 839 
Oriole, golden, 114 
Oriolus galbulus, 114 
Orphean warbler, 70 
Ortolan bunting, 154 
Osprey, 216 
Otis macqueeni, 281 

tarda, 281 

tetrax, 281 
Otocorys alpestris, 178 
Ouzel, water, 86 

Owl, American hawk, 199 

barn, 193 

brown, 198 

churn, 181 
eagle, 199 

European hawk, 199 

little, 199 

long-eared, 196 

scops, 199 

short-eared, 197 

snowy, 199 

tawny, 198 

Tengmalm's, 199 

wood, 198 
Oxeye, 92 
Oyster-catcher, 293 



PAGOPHILA eburnea, 829 
Pallas's great grey shrike, 116 

sand-grouse, 264 
Pandion Jtaliaetus, 213 
Panurus biamicus, 89 
Parrot crossbill, 145 
Partridge, 267 

French, 265 

red-legged, 265 
Parus ater, 94 

britannicus, 94 

cceruleus, 97 

cristatus, 98 

major, 92 

palustris, 98 
Passenger pigeon, 264 
Passer domesticus, 162 

montanus, 183 
Pastor roseus, 156 
Pectoral sandpiper, 817 
Perdix cinerea, 267 
Peregrine falcon, 208 
Pemis apivonui, 217 
Petrel, Bulwer's, 889, 

capped, 889 

fork-tatted, 885 

Leach's, 885 



Petrel, stormy 888 

Wilson's, 886 
Pewit, 290 
Phalacrocorax carbo, 218 

graculus, 220 
Phalarope, grey, 295 

rednecked, 294 
Phalaropus fulicarius, 295 

hyperboreus, 294 
Phasianus colchicus, 264 
Pheasant, 264 

ring-necked, 265 



Phylloscopus rufus, 74 

sibilatrix, 78 

superciliosus, 79 

trochilus, 76 
Pica rustica, 160 
Pied flycatcher, 118 

wagtail, 104 
Pigeon, passenger, 264 
Pigmy curlew, 803 
Pine grossbeak, 144 
Pinicola enucleator, 144 
Pink-footed goose, 229 
Piutail, 288 

Pipit, meadow, 108 

Richard's, 118 

rock, 112 

tawny, 118 

tree, 110 

water, 118 - 
Platalea leucorodia, 226 
Plectrophanes nivalis, 152 
Plegadis falcinellus, 226 
Plover, big, 282 

golden, 284 

green, 290 

grey, 286 

Kentish, 287 

killdeer, 289 

lesser golden, 286 

lesser ringed, 288 

Norfolk, 282 

ringed, 287 
Pochard, 248 

red-crested, 246 
Podiceps auritus, 845 

cristatus, 842 

griseigena, 845 

nigrocollis, 845 
Polish swan, 288 
Pomatorhine skua, 888 
Porzana bailloni, 278 

maruetta, 277 

parva, 278 
Pratincola rubetra, 54 



860 



BRITISH BIRDS 



Pratincola rubicola, 66 

Prettichaps, 69 

Procellaria leucorrhoa, 835 

pelagica, 888 

Ptarmigan, 270 

Puffin, 851 

Pujfinus anglorum 886 

griseus, 837 

major, 887 

obscurus, 887 
Purple heron, 226 

sandpiper, 804 
Pyrrhocorax graculus, 157 
Pyrrhula europcea, 142 



QUAIL, 269 

Querquedula carolinensis, 244 

circia, 248 

crecca, 244 

discora, 244 



BALLVS aquatieua, 277 
Kaven, 172 
Bazorbill, 845 

Recurvirostra avocetta, 816 
Bed-backed shrike, 114 
Eedbreast, 59 
Eed-breasted flycatcher, 118 

goose, 227 

merganser, 256 

snipe, 817 

Bed-craking night-wren, 84 
Red-crested pochard, 246 
Bed-footed falcon, 217 
Bed grouse, 272 
Bed-legged partridge, 265 
Bed-necked grebe, 845 

nightjar, 181 

phalarope, 294 
Bed night-reeler, 84 
Redpoll, Greenland, 140 

lesser, 189 

mealy, 140 
Bedshank, 810 
Red-spotted bluethroat, 59 
Bedstart, 67 

black, 59 

Bed -throated diver, 
Bedwing, 45 
Beed-bunting, 151 
Beed-sparrow, 152 
Reed-warbler, 79 

great, 82 
Reelbird, 84 



342 



Beeve, 306 

Begulus cristatus, 72 

ignicapillus, 74 
Bichard's pipit, 118 
Bichardson's skua, 333 
Bingdove, 258 
Binged plover, 287 
Bing-necked pheasant, 2(55 
Bing-ouzel, 50 

Bissa tridactyla, 823 
Biver-chat, 80 
Bobin, 69 
Bock, blue, 262 
Bock-dove, 261 
Bock-pipit, 112 
Bock-thrush, 62 
Boiler, 190 
Book, 168 
Boseate tern, 820 
Bose-coloured pastor, 150 
Bosy bullfinch, 144 
Bough-legged buzzard, 216 
Boyston crow, 167 
Buddy sheldrake, 236 
Buff, 806 

Bufous warbler, 79 
Bustic bunting, 154 
Buticilla phoenicurus, 57 

titys, 59 



SABINE'S gull, 880 
Sanderling, 808 
Sand-martin, 122 
Sandpiper, Bartram's, 317 

Bonaparte's, 317 

broad-billed, 817 

buff-breasted, 317 

common, 809 

curlew, 803 

green, 810 

pectoral, 817 

purple, 804 

wood, 816 
Sandwich tem, 822 
Savi's warbler, S4 
Saw-sharpener, 93 
Saxicola deserti. 54 

cenanthe, 62 

strapazina, 54 
Scaup, 247 

Sclavonian grebe, 345 
Scolopax rusticula, '296 
Scopoli's sooty tern, 823 
Scops giu t 199 

Scops owl, 199 
Scoter, black, 253 



INDEX 



361 



Scoter, common, 258 

surf, 246 

velvet, 254 
Screecher, 179 
Sea-eagle, 205 
Sea-magpie, 293 
Sea-pheasant, 238 
Sedge-bird, 80 
Sedge-warbler, 80 
Serin, 128 

Serinus hortulanus, 128 



Shearwater, dusky, 837 

greater, 887 

- Manx, 886 

sooty, 887 
Sheld-duck, 285 
Sheldrake, common, 235 

ruddy, 286 
Shore-lark, 178 
Short-eared owl, 197 
Short-toed lark, 178 
Shoveler, 245 
Shrike, great grey, 116 

lesser grey, 116 

- red-backed, 114 
Siskin, 127 

Sitta ccesia, 99 
Skua, Button's, 883 

common or great, 880 

Richardson's, 883 
Skylark, 174 
Smew, 258 

Snipe, common, 299 

double, 298 

great, 298 

jack, 800 

solitary, 298 

summer, 809 
Snow-bunting, 158 
Snowflake, 152 
Snow goose, 227 
Snowy owl, 199 
Solan goose, 221 
Solitary snipe, 298 
Somateria mollissima, 261 

spectabilis, 246 
Song-thrush, 41 
Sooty shearwater, 837 

tern, 823 
Sparrow-hawk, 206 
Sparrow, hedge, 84 

house, 182 

tree, 183 
Spatula clypeata, 246 
Spinner, 181 
Spoonbill, 226 



Spotted crake, 277 

eagle, 216 

fly-catcher, 116 

redshank, 816 

woodpecker, 181 
Squacco heron, 226 
Squatarola helvetica, 286 
Starling, 154 

Steller's duck, 246 
Stercorarius catarrhactes, 330 

crepidatus, 833 
parasiticus, 883 

pomatorhinus, 838 
Sterna cantiaca, 822 

dougalli, 820 
fluviatilis, 819 

macrura, 317 

minuta, 820 

Stilt, black-winged, 81 
Stint, American, 817 

little, 802 

Temminck's, 808 
Stock-dove, 261 
Stonechat, 56 
Stone-cracker, 54 
Stone-curlew, 282 
Stork, black, 226 

white, 226 
Stormcock, 89 
Storm petrel, 884 
Stormy petrel, 833 
Strepsilus interpres, 292 
Strix flammea, 193 
Sturnus vulgaris, 154 
Sula bassana, 221 
Summer snipe, 809 

teal, 248 
Surf-scoter, 246 
Surnia funeria, 199 

ulula, 199 
Swallow, 118 
Swallow-tailed kite, 217 
Swan, Bewick's, 234 

mute, 288 

Polish, 288 

whooper, 284 

wild, 284 
Swift, 178 

black, 179 

needle-tailed, 179 

white-bellied, 17 
Sylvia atricapitia, 'J7 

cinerea, 64 

cunrruca, 66 

hortensis, 69 

nis&ria, 70 

orphea 70 



362 



BEITISH BIBDS 



Syrnium aluco, 198 
Syrrhaptes paradoxus, 264 



TACKVBAPTES fluviatiUs, 844 
Tadorna casarca, 236 

cornuta, 235 
Tangle-picker, 293 
Tawny owl, 198 
-pipit, 118 
Teal, 244 

blue-winged, 244 

cricket, 248 

green-winged, 244 

summer, 248 
Temminck's stint, 803 
Tengmalm's owl, 199 
Tern, arctic, 817 

black, 828 

Caspian, 828 

common, 819 

gull-billed, 823 

little, 820 

roseate, 320 

Sandwich, 82 

sooty, 828 

whiskered, 323 

white-winged black, 823 
Tetrao tetrix, 273 

urogallus, 275 
Thick-knee, 282 
Throstle, 41 

Thrush, black-throated, 51 

missel, 89 

rock, 52 

song, 41 

White's, 52 
Tinnunculus alaudarius, 212 

cenchris, 217 

vespertinus, 247 
Titmouse, bearded, 89 

blue, 97 

coal, 94 

crested, 98 

great, 92 

long-tailed, 90 

marsh, 96 

Totanus calidris, 810 

canescens, 812 

glareola, 816 
Tree-creeper, 124 
Tree-pipit, 110 
Tree-sparrow, 188 
Tringa alpina, 800 

canutus, 804 - 

minuta, 802 

striata, 804 



Tringa subarquata, 808 

Temminckt, 803 
Tringmdea hypoleucus, 369 
Troglodytes parvulus, 101 
Tufted duck, 246 
Turdus atrigularis, 52 

iliacus, 45 

merula, 47 

musicus, 41 

pilaris, 46 

torquatus, 50 

varius, 52 

viscivorus, 39 
Turnstone, 292 
Turtle-dove, 262 
Turtur communis, 262 
Twite, 141 
Two-barred crossbill, 145 



UPUPA epops, 190 
Uria grylle, 850 



VANELLUS vulgaris, 200 
Velvet scoter, 246, 254 
Vulture, Egyptian, 216 
griffon, 216 



WAGTAIL, blue-headed yellow, 108 

grey, 105 

pied, 104 

white, 108 

yellow, 107 
Warbler, aquatic, 82 

barred, 70 

Dartford, 70 

garden, 69 

grasshopper, 82 

icterine, 79 

marsh, 82 

orph,ean, 70 

reed, 79 

Savi's, 84 

sedge, 79 

willow, 76 

yellow-browed, 79 
Water-hen, 280 
Water-ouzel, 86 
Water-pipit, 113 
Water-rail, 277 
Waxwing, 114 
Whaup, 816 
Wheatear, 52 

- black-throated. t>4 

desert, 54 



INDEX 



Wheelbird, 181 
Whimbrel, 818 
Whinchat, 54 
Whiskered tern, 823 
White-bellied swift, 179 
White-eyed duck, 246 
White-fronted goose, 230 
White-spotted bluethroat, 59 
White's thrush, 52 
White stork, 226 
Whitetail, 54 
White-tailed eagle, 205 
Whitethroat, 64 

greater, 65 

lesser, 66 
White wagtail, 108 
White-winged black tern, 828 

crossbill, 145 

lark, 178 
Whooper swan, 234 
Wigeon, 287 

American, 238 
Wild duck, 289 

swan, 234 
Willow-warbler, 76 
Willow-wren, 76 
Wilson's petrel, 836 
Windhover, 212 
Woodchat, 116 



Woodcock, 296 
Woodlark, 176 
Wood-owl, 198 
Woodpecker, barred, 188 

green, 184 

lesser spotted, 183 

spotted, 181 
Wood-pigeon, 258 
Wood-sandpiper, 816 
Wood-wren, 78 
Wren, 101 

furze, 70 

golden-crested, 72 

red-craking night, 84 

willow, 76 

wood, 78 
Wryneck, 186 



XEMA sabinii, 880 



YAFFLE, 185 

Yellow-billed cuckoo, 193 
Yellow-browed warbler, 79 
Yellow bunting, 148 
Yellowhamraer, 148 
Yellow wagtail, 107 
yoldring, 149 



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